Very quick blog post for you guys today and this one is more of a novel observation from a study on RPE I read recently.
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is widespread from professional sport to your commercial gym. It is used to gauge the intensity of a workout. It is a scale from 1 to 10 whereby 1 or 2 means very easy, piece of piss to 9 – 10 means peak effort, impossible to talk, I’m seriously about to puke right now.
Researchers use this measure regularly as it is easy to record and provides a subjective reflection of perception of effort. The researchers at Northumbria university in the UK were no different but they added a very interesting twist.
They had ten males complete three 20 minute, moderate intensity running trials at 60% of their peak treadmill running speed. In a randomly assigned order, researchers created three separate trials for each run. One with no observer, one with a 10/10 male hottie in the room and another with a 10/10 female hottie in the room (the observers were actually rated on physical attractiveness before the trial by sports science students so I’m not the one being a “looks over personality pig” here). The observer was brought into the room ten minutes into the run and stood in front of the guy exercising. He or she asked the runner a series of pre-scripted questions relating to sport involvement, coaching, education, etc. to initiate a two way conversation. A separate female researcher used for all trials recorded RPE on three separate occasions in the 20 minute run. The same observers were used for all runners. Not that many participants (n=10) but pretty well controlled. Pretty decent, novel trial.
The introduction of a female observer significantly decreased RPE whereas the introduction of a male significantly increased RPE when compared with control (no observer at all).
This the researchers say, means that depending on who is watching, exercisers will not only change the way they self present but also their motivation to do so. The findings are probably as we would expect. It would be interesting to see the research repeated on females to see if the same thing happens. It is very interesting that the introduction of an “athletic male” had an adverse effect on RPE. My recent interest in self-efficacy makes suspect it could play a part. Seeing someone similar in age and gender to you look better and more athletic could reduce your confidence in being able to complete a task and make it seem more difficult.
depending on who is watching, exercisers will not only change the way they self present but also their motivation to do so
The point to all this is our effort and fatigue is very much mediated by our perceptions of fatigue and the meaning and purpose of why we are performing that effort. The big question here is, is fatigue largely a physical phenomenon or more grounded in perception? This is being looked at right now in University of Kent where Samuele Marcora is researching our perceptions of fatigue. Obviously he should have a good looking woman or man in that faculty to keep his energy up.