Dr. Svenja A. Wolf

Assistant Professor
Svenja A. Wolf

Contact Information

"EVERYTHING IS AWESOME WHEN YOU'RE PART OF A TEAM! (?)"

At the most basic level, I love anything that has to do with teams, emotions, and work to apply my research expertise on these topics in my supervision, teaching, and application.

GROUP DYNAMICS X EMOTIONS: MY RESEARCH FOCI

More specifically, my current research centers on the intersection of group dynamics and emotions in sport and other performance contexts such as performing arts and high-pressure work-settings. Across all of my research, I aim to work from strong theoretical frameworks, employ a variety of designs (e.g., multilevel field studies, field, lab, and online experiments) and methods (e.g., questionnaires, GPS tracking, video observations, interviews), and ensure high ecological validity and relevance. I also strongly believe in quality over quantity and a collaborative approach to research.

Collective emotions. In my main line of research, I focus on the phenomenon of collective emotions. Here, I work to provide evidence for the existence of collective emotions in sport (e.g., statistical agreement of member responses, convergent non-verbal behaviors), their task-related and social consequences (e.g., team coordination, member identification), relevant boundary factors (e.g., discrete emotions, timely dynamics, emotion norms), and the underlying mechanisms that cause emotional congruence and convergence (e.g., emotional leadership, emotional mimicry, identification). 

Concerning the latter, a particular focus lies on emotional conformity, that is, the idea that team-members attend to and match their teammates' emotions (or at least their expressions) out of strategic, underlying motives to gain an accurate understanding of reality or to form and maintain social relationships, and that these motives determine, for example, through which mechanisms emotional convergence operates and which situational properties trigger it.

Social indispensability. In a secondary research line, I combine literatures on social motivation and choking under pressure and investigate the possible ambivalent influences of social indispensability. Specifically, I hypothesize that social indispensability induces pressure (e.g., not to let the team down), which is an asset if it enhances effort and ultimately performance on effort-based tasks such as running, but which is a detriment if it enhances self-focus and ultimately reduces performance on fine-motor tasks such as target shooting.

To get some further insight into my work, the following might be some helpful references:

van Kleef, G. A., Cheshin, A., Koning, L. F., & Wolf, S. A. (2019). Emotional games: How coaches' emotional expressions shape players' emotions, inferences, and team performance. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 41, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.11.004

Wolf, S. A., Eys, M. A., Sadler, P., & Kleinert, J. (2015). Appraisal in a team context: Perceptions of cohesion predict competition importance and prospects for coping. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 37, 489–499. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.2014-0276

Wolf, S. A., Harenberg, S., Tamminen, K., & Schmitz, H. (2018). “‘Cause you can't play this by yourself” – Athletes’ perceptions of team influence on their precompetitive psychological states. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 30, 185–203. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200.2017.1347965

 

SUSTAINABLE + AUTONOMOUS PERFORMANCE: MY APPROACH TO SUPERVISION, TEACHING, AND APPLICATION

In my supervision, teaching, and application, I try to implement my research knowledge actively and use group dynamics and emotion principles to ensure student motivation and success and effective knowledge transfer and intervention.

Supervision. In line with the principles of transformational leadership, I aim to be a role model to the master's and Ph.D. students I supervise (also with regard to the necessity of a sound work-life balance). I expect my students to pursue innovative and impactful research projects and commit to mentoring and supporting them in ways that are necessary to achieve this. Also, I hope to inspire my students to develop an intrinsic interest in their work and a drive to use this to make a difference in the field. Whereas it is a precondition for our collaboration that their interests fit with my general lines of research, I strive to balance direction and guidance with intellectual freedom and executive independence.

For example, a current Ph.D. project under my supervision addresses the demand and resource appraisals and subsequent coping behaviors of goalkeepers, hence the broader notion of social indispensability within a team. I am looking to grow my research team annually with motivated and topically fitting Ph.D. students. I encourage you to contact me for further information if you are interested and fit the description. 

Teaching. Despite also applying transformational leadership in my course-based teaching, I strive to harness the benefits of teamwork, such as social motivation and backing up behaviors and instigate a positive emotional climate via respective leadership and structured student interactions. Further, I strive to teach students the ability to identify, source, and use high-quality research evidence and guide them through central sport psychology theories and empirical evidence. I strongly believe that these are the foundation of effective and sustainable applied work.

Within our Sport Psychology program, I am teaching the first-year master's courses "Sport Psychology" and "Applied Sport Psychology" and will be developing a second-year master's course on "Emotions and Emotion Regulation in Performance Settings" for the coming fall.

Application. I am a strong proponent of research and practice integration and exchange in line with my dedication to ecologically valid and relevant research and evidence-based application. In line with my group dynamics background, I pursue a holistic approach to interventions, taking into account performance systems and organizations. Being certified with the German Association of Sport Psychology, I worked with sports organizations, coaches and other leadership personnel, athletes across the age spectrum, as well as industry and community stakeholders in the past, and I look forward to establishing a practice with a focus on knowledge translation and exchange in Tallahassee.  

 

THERE + BACK AGAIN: MY TRAINING AND BACKGROUND

I joined Florida State University and the Sport Psychology program this past summer. Currently, however, I am working remotely from Germany, my home country. Specifically, the Technical University of Munich is kind enough to host me as a Visiting Professor and ensure my prime access to the local mountainside. This, I missed terribly during my past five years working at the University of Amsterdam in the aptly named Netherlands. I spent the past two years as an Assistant Professor in the Work and Organizational Psychology program and the previous three years as a Postdoc with the Social Psychology program. Before moving to Amsterdam, I spent a year as a Postdoc with the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I completed my Ph.D. in Sport Science with Sport Psychology's specialization at the German Sport University Cologne and as a visiting scholar at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.