Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Steven R. Wininger (Director), Dr. Frederick G. Grieve, Dr. Jacqueline Pope-Tarrence

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


A common stereotype in our society is that athletes are not as capable of performing well academically as their non-athlete counterparts; they are “dumb jocks”. Do athletes feel that others have lower expectations of them academically? This is important because previous research in education has shown that expectations play a role in academic achievement (for example, Rosenthal and Jacobson’s Pygmalion effect (1968) and self-fulfilling prophecy research). The current study examined student-athletes’ perceptions of this stereotype. Three areas were addressed: athletes’ perceptions of their peers’ awareness that the student is a student-athlete, perceptions of their instructors and peers academic expectations of athletes, and perceptions of their instructors and peers willingness to offer help with coursework because they are athletes.

This study not only examined athletes’ perception of how they are treated by their professors and non-athlete students in the academic realm, but also how the athletes view the academic abilities of their athletic peers compared to their own academic abilities. The person/group discrimination discrepancy is a phenomenon indicating that individuals tend to report a higher level of discrimination directed at their group as a whole than at themselves as individual members of that group. This study examined if student-athletes’ report similar feelings about their own academic ability as compared to athletes as a whole.

Results of this study indicated that student-athletes perceive professors as having higher academic expectations and being willing to provide academic help because they are athletes. Student-athletes perceived other students as being willing to provide academic help, but having lower academic expectations of athletes.

As hypothesized, the personal/group discrimination discrepancy did emerge among student-athletes. Overall, student-athletes assigned the highest grade point average (GPA) to themselves, followed by a lower GPA for teammates, and significantly lower GPAs to university athletes as a whole. Further exploratory analyses were conducted. The exploratory analyses indicated that student-athletes’ perceptions of academic ability for themselves compared to teammates and university athletes as a whole varied by gender, race, and academic scholarship. Results indicated that female athletes and males athletes (excluding football players) perceived themselves as having the highest GPA followed by a decline for teammates and university athletes respectively; however, football players perceived themselves and university athletes obtaining approximately equal GPAs with a significantly lower perceived GPA for teammates. Athletes on academic scholarship assigned the highest GPA to themselves followed by teammates and university athletes, respectively. Finally, African American athletes assigned the lowest GPA to themselves, whereas Caucasian athletes assigned themselves the highest GPA.


Cognition and Perception | Personality and Social Contexts | Psychology