Psychological Predictors of Cheating in Ultimate Frisbee

  • Tanya Fozzard

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Whilst cheating in sports has been heavily studied, very few researchers have investigated the phenomenon within recreational or self-governed sports. Ultimate Frisbee (Ultimate) is a unique, non-contact, recreational sport that relies on self-governance and Spirit of the Game (Spirit) (a player scoring system structured around fair play and Sportspersonship). The lack of designated adjudicators could make it easier for players to cheat. The present study aimed to investigate the role of Spirit within Ultimate; more specifically, to examine players attitudes towards the efficacy of Spirit and to identify predictors of cheating behaviour.

Participants (N = 828) completed a series of questionnaires about their likeliness to cheat and their preferences towards Spirit and Ultimate as well as personality questionnaires including the Short Dark Triad (Jones & Paulhus, 2014), the HEXACO-60 (Ashton & Lee, 2009) and the Sportspersonship scale (Perry et al., 2015).

The results found that 6% of participants admitted to being likely to misuse Spirit, additionally, misuse was more likely to occur in an important match than a fun one. It was also found that likeliness of cheating can be predicted by higher levels of Machiavellianism and lower levels of Compliance towards rules, however the other included personality variables did not significantly predict cheating likeliness. Compliance towards rules was the only significant difference between players who had admitted to cheating compared to those that had not. Together, the findings from this study indicate that Spirit is a well valued and useful tool for the effective governance of Ultimate. Spirit is seemingly well received by the Ultimate community; therefore, it is recommended that Ultimate’s governing bodies continue to encourage players to use Spirit fairly, particularly in more important and competitive tournaments.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDara Mojtahedi (Main Supervisor) & Eilish Duke (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this