The Role of Cognition and Social Factors in Competition: How Do People with Intellectual Disabilities Respond to Opponents?

Kandianos Emmanouil Sakalidis, Stein Gerrit Paul Menting, Florentina Johanna Hettinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Exploring pacing behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in competition will help to better understand the impact of cognition and social environment in sports, providing support for the shaping of proper inclusive sports environments. The present experimental study aimed to (1) compare the pacing behaviour and performance between people with and without ID who are inexperienced in cycling and (2) investigate how these are influenced by an opponent. Participants with (n = 8) and without ID (n = 10) performed two randomised 4-km maximal cycling trials, alone and against an opponent. Non-parametric tests for repeated measures data (p ≤ 0.05) revealed that people with ID cycled slower, but with higher inter-individual variation (both conditions) and paced themselves differently compared to people without ID when competing against an opponent. In contrast to the previous literature in athletes without ID, the presence of a faster opponent resulted in a decrease in the performance in the participants with ID. The negative influence of the opponent highlights the potential difficulties people with ID experience to adequately use their opponents to enhance their self-regulatory processes and optimize their pacing and performance in maximal exercise trials. Coaches who want to offer inclusive sports environments for people with ID could take these findings into consideration.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2670
    Number of pages14
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2-Feb-2023


    • head-to-head trial
    • pacing
    • self-regulation
    • sports performance
    • time trial

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