@Scibraai Monday Menu: of tennis players’ BMT and frogs

This week’s @Scibraai Monday Menu features two research papers – one from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (featuring mental toughness in tennis players) and another from North-West University and the Endangered Wildlife Trust staffers (on what South Africans think about frogs).

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Being a mentally tough tennis player

Psychologists of the University of KwaZulu-Natal have delved into how mental toughness can help competitive tennis players to rise above stress. For their study in Frontiers in Psychology they questioned 351 tennis players between the ages of 18 and 84 years old who participate at various competitive levels in South Africa.

Highly competitive sporting contexts emphasize the necessity to emerge as victor and accentuate the winning is considered the only option mentality. With success often bestowed solely upon winners or champions, the pursuit of sporting achievement has generated interest in determining the underlying characteristics of successful athletes.

The current study shows that resilience and mental toughness are interrelated and feed from each other. Stress, on the other hand, can have a negative effect on a tennis player’s mental toughness. The findings also offer initial evidence to suggest the distinct roles of resilience and mental toughness in avoiding or alleviating stress, at least in competitive tennis. The KwaZulu-Natal researchers advise that it could be helpful to identify the sources of stress that a player experiences, as well as the athlete’s psychophysiological reactions to it.

Reference: Cowden, R.G., Meyer-Weitz, A., Oppong Asante, K. (2016). Mental Toughness in Competitive Tennis: Relationships with Resilience and Stress, Frontiers in Psychology

So, what do people think about frogs?

Amphibians such as frogs are not among the world’s most loved animals. In South Africa, many superstitions and myths in some cultures add to these cold-blooded animals being feared. Such attitudes could have harmful consequences both for the animals concerned and conservation efforts.

Researchers of the North-West University and the Endangered Wildlife Trust set out to find out what South Africans across various age and ethnic groups think about frogs, and asked 295 just that. Their findings are published in African Zoology.

Men were more likely to like frogs than women. Attitudes varied significantly between groups. Age and level of education are also significantly linked to liking. The influence of cultural beliefs and lack of knowledge also directly influenced negative attitudes towards frogs.

More than 60% of respondents expressed an interest in learning more about frogs, indicating an opportunity for improving attitudes through educational outreach. The findings of this study can be used to inform current efforts to protect amphibians in South Africa through social interventions

Reference: Tarrant, J., Kruger, D. & Du Preez, L.H. (2016). Do public attitudes affect conservation effort? Using a questionnaire-based survey to assess perceptions, beliefs and superstitions associated with frogs in South Africa, African Zoology

Engela Duvenage

Co-founder of SciBraai.co.za. Day job: Science writer and science communicator who loves turning research papers into news stories. And writing about cookies and writers if I get the chance. Claim to fame: mother of two daughters. Background: MPhil (Journalism, specialising in science journalism) and HonsBA (Psychology). Disclaimer: Before starting a freelancing career I worked for Stellenbosch University, so please excuse my inability not to write about some of its people and projects. Ditto for other clients I have worked for.

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