Previous research suggests that the psychological outcomes individuals derive from engaging in identity-defining activities, such as different types of sport activities, depend substantially upon motivation (Vallerand et al., 2003; Vallerand & Losier, 1999). Certain forms of motivation have been found to produce more positive emotions and well-being for the individual than others. Intrinsic vs. extrinsic intentions for activity engagement serve as an example (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 2013). The purpose of the present study was to investigate affective outcomes from recreational sport activities based on two contemporary models of individual motivation for engagement in one’s favorite activity, namely the dualistic model of passion (Vallerand, 2010; Vallerand et al., 2003) and the two-dimensional model of escapism (Stenseng, Rise, & Kraft, 2011; Stenseng, Rise, & Kraft, 2012). The passion model advocates that affective outcomes from an activity are partially dependent upon the manner by which that activity has been internalized into the person’s identity. In contrast, the escapism model proposes that affective outcomes are dependent upon the manner in which a person practices the activity to regulate emotions. In the present study, we aimed to investigate their relative and mutual contributions in the prediction of positive and negative affective outcomes resulting from engagement in recreational sport activities.
The dualistic model of passion
The dualistic model of passion (Vallerand, 2010; Vallerand et al., 2003) has gained considerable interest within several applied domains of psychology. The model has been widely tested in diverse populations and on multiple activities such as sports (Vallerand et al., 2006), the arts (Rip, Fortin, & Vallerand, 2006), work engagement (Forest, Mageau, Sarrazin, & Morin, 2011), computer gaming (Stoeber, Harvey, Ward, & Childs, 2011), gambling (Ratelle, Vallerand, Mageau, Rousseau, & Provencher, 2004), romantic relationships (Ratelle, Carbonneau, & Vallerand, 2013), and general leisure activity engagement (Stenseng, 2008; Stenseng et al., 2011).
According to Vallerand et al. (2003), being passionate about an activity implies that an individual has a strong inclination to engage in the activity—even to the extent that it becomes identity defining. For example, a person who is passionate about running a marathon will define him- or herself as a marathon runner, not just as a person who is running. The dualism of the passion model is represented as two dimensions of motivation to engage in the activity, namely harmonious passion and obsessive passion. Harmonious passion is described as an autonomous and flexible engagement in a valued activity that is accompanied by positive affect and enhanced subjective well-being. Obsessive passion is described as a controlled and rigid engagement in an activity, an approach that fails to produce the positive outcomes associated with harmonious passion.
An important attribute of the theory (Vallerand, 2010; Vallerand et al., 2003) is that it stipulates that the two types of passions are determined by the way in which an activity is internalized into the person’s identity. Harmonious passion is considered to be internalized in an autonomous manner, whereas obsessive passion is internalized in a controlled fashion due to external and/or internal pressure. The two kinds of passion are described as implanted in the personality in a consistent manner that continues to influence the person’s motivation for that specific activity.
Research on affect in relation to passionate activity engagement has mostly focused on outcomes that are either facilitated during the engagement or experienced after the engagement. For instance, Vallerand et al. (2003; see Study 1) found that harmonious passion toward a favorite activity was substantially related to positive emotions both during activity engagement and after activity engagement. Obsessive passion, on the other hand, was related to both positive and negative affect. A similar pattern has been replicated in several studies (Vallerand, 2010). Of further relevance, Mageau and Vallerand (2007) conducted a diary study on college students’ engagements in their favorite activities and found that daily positive affect was differently related to the two types of passions. Harmonious passion predicted general positive affect on days when participants engaged in their favorite activity, whereas positive affect was unrelated to obsessive passion. However, obsessive passion predicted a decrease in positive affect on days when participants did not engage in the activity. This study further shows that the two types of passion have an impact on affect beyond the immediate period after activity engagement and on obsessively passionate individuals, even when they are prevented from engaging in their activity. Other studies also indicate that the positive affect harmoniously passionate individuals derive from their activity results in higher levels of global well-being (Carbonneau, Vallerand, & Massicotte, 2010; Lafrenière, St-Louis, Vallerand, & Donahue, 2012; Stenseng & Phelps, 2013; Vallerand 2010).
The two-dimensional model of escapism
Analogous to the dualistic model of passion, the two-dimensional model of escapism (Stenseng et al., 2011, 2012) is based on a dualistic approach to activity engagements. However, the model is more oriented toward how personality, emotions, and general well-being interact with an individual’s motivation to engage in a valued activity. At present, there is little scientific consensus regarding the definition of the term escapism, but it generally refers to the ways in which people engage in certain activities in order to avoid critical self-evaluation (Baumeister, 1990) or to experience a diversion from demanding aspects of their everyday lives (Froh, Kashdan, Yurkewicz, Fan, Allen, & Glowacki, 2000; Tuan, 2000).
Typically, escapism is presented as a one-dimensional concept, such as excessive gambling in order to mentally «run away» from a problematic life situation (Reid et al., 2011). However, Stenseng et al.’s (2012) escapism model was developed from the paradox that positive psychological experiences related to activity engagement such as flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998) resemble states described in relation to self-destructive acts such as binge eating and suicide ideation (Baumeister, 1990, 1991; Heatherton & Baumeister, 1991). To explain this paradox, Stenseng et al. (2012) suggested that the state of escape rests on at least three affordances in an activity: task absorption, temporary dissociation, and reduced self-evaluation. These psychological affordances related to escapism may be applicable to a wide range of activity engagements. In fact, the state of escape may lead to both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As shown by Vallerand (2010), even activities (e.g., sports) generally seen as healthy and conducive to well-being may fail to produce the anticipated positive psychological outcomes. So one question arises: Which psychological processes determine whether the state of escape generates positive or negative emotional outcomes?
Stenseng et al. (2012) suggested that the motivational focus behind the obtainment of the escape state determines its outcomes. Based on principles from regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1987), it was deduced that escapism in activity engagement may be instigated from either motives to promote positive affect or alternatively motives to prevent negative affect. When activity engagement is derived from a promotion focus—described as self-expansion—it will facilitate positive experiences in the activity and produce positive psychological outcomes after engagement. When activity engagement is derived from a prevention focus—described as self-suppression—it will momentarily block negative self-evaluations and rumination, but it may also obstruct other positive experiences and affective outcomes (Gross, 2002; Richards & Gross, 2000).
The few investigations that have been conducted on the two-dimensional model of escapism have supported its main assumptions. First, the theoretical distinction between self-expansion and self-suppression has been empirically supported in both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses (see Study 1 & Study 3 in Stenseng et al., 2012). Furthermore, the two concepts were shown to be differently related to measurements hypothesized to discriminate between the concepts. Self-expansion was strongly related to positive affective outcomes from activity engagement. However, it was unrelated to the personality characteristics of depression vulnerability (Costa & McCrae, 1992; Goldberg, 1990) and emotion suppression as an emotion regulation strategy (Gross, 2002). It was also unrelated to subjective well-being (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Self-suppression was positively, but weakly, related to positive affective outcomes from activity engagement. However, it was also positively correlated with depression vulnerability and emotion suppression. It was negatively correlated with subjective well-being as well. Second, in a longitudinal design, it was shown that general negative affect predicted self-suppression motives in activity engagement in a three-month timespan (see Study 2 in Stenseng et al., 2012). Self-expansion, on the other hand, was not predicted by general negative affect. This seems to indicate that activity engagement out of self-suppression motives tends to increase during poor life circumstances, whereas self-expansion is unaffected. Third, in a path model including escapism, flow, and affective outcomes, it was shown that flow positively mediated the effect of self-expansion toward positive affective outcomes (see Study 3 in Stenseng et al., 2012). Self-suppression predicted less flow and less positive affective outcomes. Rather, it predicted negative affective outcomes. These findings indicate that escapism motives may influence affective outcomes through their impact on cognitive experiences such as flow in activity engagement.
Similarities and differences between the two activity engagement models
The two-dimensional model of escapism (Stenseng et al., 2012) and the dualistic model of passion (Vallerand, 2010; Vallerand et al., 2003) share three basic features. First, both models address people’s experiences in relation to their favorite activities as well as other highly valued and/or identity-defining activities. Second, both models are dualistic, but not in the categorical sense, because they propose that the two dimensions are continuous. Hence, no individuals possess purely harmonious or obsessive passion toward an activity, nor do they engage in acts purely as self-suppressive or self-expansive. Third, both models propose that the psychological outcomes from activity engagement are partly dependent upon the motivation that lies behind the activity. They also suggest that these outcomes are of both an affective and a cognitive character.
There are also some significant differences between the two models. First and foremost, the two models differ in terms of the motivational drive behind the activity engagement. The passion model suggests that the internalization of a particular activity determines the motivation to engage in that activity, with harmonious passion viewed as being rooted in an autonomous internalization and obsessive passion being rooted in a controlled internalization. The escapism model proposes a more dynamic motivational approach to the engagement in these types of activities. More specifically, self-suppression is seen as dependent upon situational factors (e.g., overall well-being) and levels of negative affect in conjunction with personality characteristics (e.g., poor self-control and maladaptive emotion regulation). Second, the passion model suggests that internalization of an activity determines the type of passion a person develops toward that special activity. Consequently, a person may develop an obsessive passion toward one activity and a harmonious passion toward another (e.g., passion for one’s job vs. passion toward a recreational activity). Meanwhile, the escapism model suggests that self-suppression and self-expansion are less tied to one particular activity. For example, a person who experiences poor life circumstances and negative affect and who has a tendency to suppress negative thoughts and emotions may engage in one or several activities to escape self-awareness.
Possible causal relations between the models
The similarities and differences mentioned above indicate some possible causal paths between the two models. First of all, the two passion dimensions are seen as determined by the internalization of the activity, an internalization that has taken place in the wake of a person’s interest for an activity, formed by, for example, parents, peers, coaches, and their own personality. The escapism dimensions, on the other hand, are seen as more dependent upon situational factors, and hence, the passion constructs may be seen as predictors of escapism motives in activity engagement. For example, an individual with a predominantly obsessive approach toward an activity will probably be more prone to engage in a self-suppressive manner compared to a harmoniously passionate individual. This assumption is based on the fact that both obsessive passion and self-suppression have been linked to maladaptive self-regulation as a personality characteristic (Stenseng, 2008; Stenseng & Dalskau, 2010; Stenseng et al., 2012). Furthermore, both dimensions have been found to predict negative affective outcomes of activity engagement (Stenseng et al., 2012; Vallerand, 2010). However, since obsessive passion is seen as internalized in the person’s identity, we suggest that obsessive passion is more likely to predict self-suppression compared to the opposite causal direction. Accordingly, we suggest that it is more likely that harmonious passion predicts self-expansion than vice versa.
The present study
In the present study, we tested the additive value of the two-dimensional model of escapism in the relationship between passion and affective outcomes from activity engagement. The escapism motives of self-suppression and self-expansion were expected to mediate (Baron & Kenny, 1986) the effects of harmonious and obsessive passion on the affective outcomes from activity engagement. Because harmonious passion is described as an autonomous engagement in concordance with one’s self-referenced intentions and goals, this kind of passion was expected to facilitate self-expansion motives in relation to activity engagement. In contrast, because obsessive passion is determined by a controlled internalization of the activity, this kind of passion was expected to predict self-suppression motives in activity engagement. Furthermore, and in line with the mediation hypothesis, we expected that the two dimensions of escapism would contribute statistically to the prediction of positive and negative affective experiences above the two passion constructs.
Procedure and participants
Participants were recruited through web pages for individuals with a special interest in a sport activity. This included forums dedicated to activities such as swimming, cycling, and soccer. A link to our questionnaire was posted on each forum by the web page administrator and was operative for approximately two weeks. Participants were guaranteed full anonymity in our dataset. The study included two hundred and seven subjects (115 men and 92 women). The mean age of participants was 27.9 years and the average time spent performing an activity was 11.4 hours per week.
Harmonious and obsessive passion. The Passion Scale (Vallerand et al., 2003) was used to measure harmonious passion and obsessive passion toward a favorite activity. The scale consists of two six-item subscales. Items include «this activity reflects the qualities I like about myself» and «my activity is well integrated in my life» to assess harmonious passion; and «I have difficulties controlling my urge to do my activity» and «if I could, I would only do my activity» to assess obsessive passion. Items were rated on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 (do not agree at all) to 7 (completely agree). In the present sample, Cronbach’s alphas were 0.71 for the harmonious passion subscale and 0.80 for the obsessive passion subscale.
Escapism. The Escapism Scale (Stenseng et al., 2012) was used to measure the two forms of self-escape through activity engagement: self-expansion and self-suppression. All items were presented from the stem When I engage in the activity…. They included “I continually try to learn new things about myself» and «I open up for experiences that enrich my life» to assess self-expansion; and «I try to suppress my problems» and «I try to prevent negative thoughts about myself» to assess self-suppression. Items were rated on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 (do not agree at all) to 7 (completely agree). A confirmatory factor analysis was performed on the six items measuring self-suppression and the five items measuring self-expansion. Results showed that the scale represented a satisfactory fit with the data: χ² (40, N = 207) = 90.48, CFI = 0.95, NFI = 0.91, RMSEA = 0.073. All factor loadings were above 0.44 on their respective dimension. Both dimensions correlated significantly with the composite score of the escapism criterion items included in the scale. There were no gender differences in relation to the two escapism dimensions. The Cronbach’s alphas were 0.89 for self-suppression and 0.78 for self-expansion.
Affective outcomes. The PANAS-X (Tellegen, Watson, & Clark, 1988) was used to measure positive and negative affective outcomes from activity engagement. The positive affect dimension consisted of six items relevant for activity engagement, whereas the negative affect dimension consisted of nine items. The scale was formulated with a reference to the phrase «The activity makes me feel….» Responses were made on a seven-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (never) to 7 (always). The reliability coefficients were satisfactory; α = 0.78 for positive affect and α = 0.89 for negative affect.
All variables to be included in the path model showed appropriate normality (values ranged from 0.96 to –1.17 for skewness and from –0.34 to 1.49 for kurtosis). Means, standard deviations, and correlation coefficients for the variables are presented in Table 1.
The proposed path model was investigated in AMOS 17.0. An exploratory approach was chosen to detect any relationships not accounted for theoretically. Paths were drawn from the two types of passion onto both dimensions of escapism and toward both positive and negative affect. Paths were also drawn toward positive and negative affect from both dimensions of escapism. The error terms of self-expansion and self-suppression were allowed to correlate as were the error terms for the affect measures. A covariance was freed between harmonious and obsessive passion in concordance with previous studies on passion (e.g., Vallerand et al., 2006). Non-significant paths were then removed from the model as described by Kline (2005). The final model had good fit with the data: χ2 (4, N = 207) = 5.02, NFl = 0.980, CFI = 0.996, RMSEA = 0.035.
As expected, harmonious passion significantly predicted self-expansion (β = 0.46) and positive affective outcomes (β = 0.34). Harmonious passion was also negatively related to negative affect (β = –0.26). Obsessive passion predicted self-suppression (β = 0.32), and somewhat surprisingly, it also predicted self-expansion (β = 0.21). Self-suppression was also directly linked to negative affective outcomes (β = 0.20). Self-expansion significantly predicted positive affect (β = 0.19), whereas self-suppression predicted negative affect (β = 0.21). All effects were significant at the 0.01 level. The complete model, including regression coefficients, is depicted in Figure 1.
It is not possible to determine the significance of indirect effects in AMOS (in files with missing values). Therefore, the more conservative Sobel test (Preacher & Hayes, 2004) was used to determine the mediational significance of self-expansion and self-suppression. The results showed that self-expansion partly mediated the effect of harmonious passion on positive affect (z = 4.73, p < 0.01) and that self-suppression mediated the effect of obsessive passion on negative affect (z = 3.50, p < 0.01).
Together, these results indicate that the escapism constructs added explanatory power to the model when positioned as mediating variables between the passion constructs and affective outcomes from activity engagement.
The aim of our study was to test the potential mediational role of escapism motives on the effect of passion as they relate to affective outcomes from sport activity engagement. It was expected that harmoniously passionate involvement would predict positive affective outcomes through self-expansive escape motives and that obsessive passion would predict negative affective outcomes through self-suppressive escape motives. Our investigation yielded partial support for this model.
First, the results supported the assumption that escape motives are related to both affective outcomes from activity engagement and passionate activity involvement. Self-expansion was associated with positive affective outcomes but was unrelated to negative affective outcomes. In contrast, self-suppression was associated with negative affective outcomes but was unrelated to positive affective outcomes. Second, escape in the form of self-expansion was more strongly related to harmonious passion compared to self-suppression. Comparatively, self-suppression was more strongly related to obsessive passion compared to self-expansion. Somewhat surprisingly, obsessive passion was also positively related to self-expansion. Third, when conducting meditational analyses in the path model, the escapism constructs contributed to the affective outcomes from activity engagement uniquely and beyond the passion model.
The present findings have several implications. First and foremost, the results indicate that the two-dimensional model of escapism contributes to the explanation of affective outcomes from activity engagement beyond the dualistic model of passion. Although both models share a number of similarities, they seem to explain different aspects of emotional outcomes in regard to negative and positive affect. As noted in the introduction, the two models possess different assumptions regarding a person’s drive to engage in an activity. The passion model highlights the internalization of the activity in terms of autonomous or controlled integration of the activity in the self. In contrast, the escapism model suggests that motives to engage are partially dependent on the person’s current life situation and mental condition as well as personal dispositions, such as self-regulation. Moreover, our main findings showing that both the passion and escapism constructs contributed to explaining variance in affective outcomes indicate that affective outcomes from sport activity engagement are determined by both internalized and situational motivational factors. However, one anomaly in the model should be noted, namely that obsessive passion was positively linked to self-expansion. Nevertheless, this outcome does correspond to past research. Specifically, a meta-analysis by Curran, Hill, Appleton, Vallerand, and Standage (2015) showed that obsessive passion often is related to both positive and negative affective outcomes. Accordingly, the present study suggests that such positive feelings deriving from obsessive passion toward a sport activity may partly be related to self-expansion motives. In other words, even though there are a number of negative outcomes associated with obsessive passion, one way in which such passion may promote positive affect is through self-expansion.
The present findings also have separate implications for the two models. First, they provide additional support for the link between harmonious passion and positive affect. In addition, the present study found that harmonious passion was negatively related to negative affect, whereas obsessive passion was related to both negative affect and positive affect (although the latter relation disappeared when controlling for harmonious passion). These results concur with previous findings (Vallerand, 2010; Vallerand et al., 2003) and provide further empirical evidence for the significant role passion plays in explaining affect in relation to activity engagement. Second, the present study also offers support to the escapism model in which self-expansion should be associated with positive affective outcomes and self-suppression should be associated with negative affective outcomes or no emotional outcomes. Hence, we found that self-expansion was positively related to positive affect and unrelated to negative affect, whereas self-suppression was positively related to negative affect and unrelated to positive affect. Moreover, these results, which are derived from participants engaged in a sports activity, may also be relevant to research on leisure activity engagement in general, and perhaps especially to the literature that defines leisure activity engagement primarily as coping with stress (Iwasaki & Mannell, 2000; Kleiber, Hutchinson, & Williams, 2002). This line of research proposes that engagement in leisure activities helps individuals unwind from everyday stressors and overcome negative life events. For example, Kleiber et al. (2002) suggested that at least four aspects of leisure engagement activities contribute to their constructive role in overcoming negative life events: 1) they are distracting; 2) they generate optimism; 3) they aid in the construction of a continuous life story; and 4) they function as vehicles for personal transformation. These aspects resemble some of the mechanisms embedded in the escapism model, such as distraction. However, in this approach, activity engagement as distraction tends to be presented as fundamentally adaptive. As indicated in the present study, affect regulation through activity engagement is not necessarily conducive to well-being. Individuals who engage in a self-suppressive manner will not necessarily experience positive psychological outcomes, as described by Kleiber et al. (2002). Hence, the present study illustrates that the escapism model may add a second dimension to leisure activity engagement as a way of coping with stress and negative life events.
These results indicate that the escapism constructs added explanatory power.
The present research has some limitations. Most importantly, this study is cross-sectional. Thus, the causal implications described above are based on statistical inferences. To better capture the dynamics of passion, escapism, and affect, longitudinal studies should be conducted. We do not know, for example, whether the passion constructs are more stable over time as compared to the escapism dimensions. Accordingly, it could be interesting to explore whether poor circumstances merely moderate escapism motives or if they also affect the two types of passion. Furthermore, the sample in the present study may not be representative of all sport activity participants. The average age of the participants was quite low and their average time spent in the activity was high. Future studies should investigate psychological outcomes from passion and escapism within a broader sample of the population and with different types of leisure activities.
In the present study we investigated the two-dimensional model of escapism (Stenseng et al., 2012) in relation to the passion model (Vallerand et al, 2003) and affective outcomes from engagement using the responses of over 200 participants recruited through web forums for sport activities. These two models share several features. For example, both models deal with motivation for engagement in activities and both are partially inspired by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2010). To summarize, the findings showed that the dualistic model of passion and the escapism model establish a dual-modal structure toward affective outcomes from engagement in recreational sport activities. Both models explain affective outcomes from engagement in sport activities, but because they both uniquely explain variance in affective outcomes, they seem to shed light on it for different reasons. Future research should investigate how these motivational models interact in everyday engagement in not just sport but also other activities. But finally, and foremost, these results highlight the importance of taking motivation into account when explaining affective outcomes from people’s engagement in identity-defining activities.
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