Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Betsy Shoenfelt (Director),Dr. Steven Haggbloom,Dr. Reagan Brown

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts, Industrial/Organization Psychology


The present study examined procedural and distributive justice outcomes of discipline in an athletic team setting. A 2 (Consistency of Punishment: consistent vs. conditional) x 2 (Violation Severity: moderate vs. severe) x 2 (Punishment Severity: moderate vs. severe) x 2 (Decision Maker: head coach vs. team captains) factorial design was used. Participants responded to four of the 16 hypothetical scenarios resulting from the design. Participants included 354 fans in attendance at a several university athletic events and students in psychology courses. The results indicated that consistent punishment was perceived as more fair to the punished athlete, teammates, and fans than was conditional punishment. Consistent punishment was perceived as more likely than conditional punishment to deter future misconduct by the punished athlete and teammates. The findings of the importance of consistency to fairness perceptions are consistent with the organizational justice literature and suggest that principles derived in traditional organizations may apply in athletic team settings. However, the current study did not find that severe punishment was more likely than moderately severe punishment to deter future misconduct by the punished athlete and teammates, which was inconsistent with the research literature on punishment. The present research indicated that inconsistencies in applying punishment based on status likely will have a negative effect on fairness perceptions in an athletic setting just as it does in an organizational setting. Intercollegiate athletics are unique in the sense that there are many outside observers, most notably fans, who pay close attention to athlete misconduct and its subsequent outcome. According to the present results, if coaches are interested in fan perceptions of fairness, punishment should be consistently applied according to team rules for all players regardless of their status on the team.


Cognition and Perception | Industrial and Organizational Psychology | Psychology | Social Psychology