Personality in sport and exercise psychology: Integrating a whole person perspective

Tristan J. Coulter*, Clifford J. Mallett, Jefferson A. Singer, Daniel F. Gucciardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This paper draws on contemporary views in personality psychology as a means for understanding people participating in sport and physical activity. Specifically, we focus on McAdams’ integrative framework [McAdams (2013). The psychological self as actor, agent, and author. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 272–295; McAdams & Pals (2006). A new big five: Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 61, 204–217] and suggest this framework as potentially generative in the field of sport and exercise psychology. McAdams indicates that people can be defined through three layers of understanding, incorporating (a) dispositional traits, (b) characteristic adaptations, and (c) narrative identities. Together these layers provide a vision of the whole person – a perspective of personality rarely adopted by the sport and exercise community. The aim of this paper is to introduce scholars and practitioners to the potential benefits of embracing this whole person outlook, and to discuss the opportunities and challenges McAdams’ framework may have for advancing scholarship in sport and exercise psychology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • characteristic adaptations
  • dispositional traits
  • holism
  • integrative theorising
  • narrative identity


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