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The Exercise Causality Orientations Scale

Deci and Ryan's (1985a, 1985b) causality orientations theory is concerned with individual differences in the extent to which people seek to be autonomous or controlled or in the regulation of their behaviour. According to this theory, there are three causality orientations: an autonomy orientation, a control orientation and an impersonal orientation. When autonomy oriented, individuals seek out opportunities to be self-determining, regard the characteristics of events as sources of information to regulate their chosen behaviours, and regulate their actions on the basis of personal goals and interests. When control oriented, individuals rely on externally or internally imposed controlling events, such as extrinsic rewards and deadlines to regulate their behaviour. The impersonal orientation is characterised by a belief that behavioral outcomes are beyond one's control When impersonally oriented, individuals feel that they are unable to regulate their behaviour to achieve desired outcomes, leading to a sense of incompetence and helplessness.

Deci and Ryan (1985b) developed the General Causality Orientations Scale (GCOS) to assess the strength of each of these orientations. The GCOS was designed as a global measure to indicate enduring general motivational orientations across various different aspects of life. The instrument has an unusual format in that individuals are presented with a series of scenarios addressing different life circumstances such as situations involving interpersonal relationships or the work environment. Each scenario is followed by a set of three responses corresponding to each of the three causality orientations. Respondents are asked to indicate the extent to which each response is characteristic of him or her, providing a score for each orientation.

The Exercise Causality Orientations Scale

Deci and Ryan recognised that although individuals may have a general tendency to be autonomy, control or impersonally oriented across most life domains, the strength of their orientations could also differ in different life contexts. Thus context-specific scales may allow better prediction of behaviours within specific domains. With this in mind, we (Rose, Markland & Parfitt, 2001) developed the Exercise Causality Orientations Scale (ECOS) to assess the strength of individuals' causality orientations in the exercise domain.

The ECOS takes the same format as the GCOS, presenting a series of scenarios that reflect the exercising environment, each followed by three responses characteristic of each causality orientation.

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