Examining the cognitive, physiological and behavioural correlates of mental toughness

  • Jennifer Meggs

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Mental toughness has received extensive research attention in recent years because of its intuitive and theoretical association with successful performance. However, several significant omissions in understanding remained. This thesis aimed to address these gaps through various research approaches and methodologies, collectively resulting in a biopsychological perspective. The primary objectives were to provide a more holistic perspective of mental toughness and generate quantitative support for the various biological (2D:4D) cognitive-affective (self-structure), physiological (cortisol response) and behavioural (performance) differences that have been associated with the construct. The findings suggested that mental toughness is a multifaceted construct and manifests in several areas of human functioning; specifically, a particular cognitive-affective profile may underlie mental toughness (they possess a positive self-concept and a particular self-structuring style, namely integration). Furthermore, levels of cortisol during a competitive event (a physiological indicator of perceived stress levels) were significantly negatively related to mental toughness, suggesting that mentally tough individuals have a reduced perception of threat in competitive situations (giving support for the notion that they perceive competition or stress as a potential challenge for personal growth and improvement). An objective marker of mental toughness was also supported; specifically, 2D:4D ratio (indicative of prenatal testosterone levels) related significantly with scores on a mental toughness scale, giving support for the biological underpinning of the construct and an objective marker of mental toughness. Finally, two case examples are provided to demonstrate the usability of these important markers (cognitive, biological and physiological) in an applied context.
Date of Award11 Oct 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorJim Golby (Supervisor)

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