Research Q&A with Thomas Aicher: Running behaviors

Read more about Aicher’s work here.

Thomas Aicher, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business and Administration

1. How would you describe the main idea or main takeaway from your most recent research or creative work to someone outside your field?

Within the research on both spectator and participants future intentions, most scholars have utilized an intention measure as a proxy for actual behavior. Recently, this has been called into question by several scholars and in a previous study, we used actual participant behavior to demonstrate the likelihood of repeat behaviors. In this study, we decided to look beyond simple behavior as a predictor of behavior and included environmental and intrapersonal constraints and facilitators have on continued behavior. Our results indicated no moderation of constraints or facilitators between planned future behavior and actual behavior among runners who were training for a half or full marathon. However, time also predicted future running behaviors of the participants in the study. Thus, this study suggests there is a relationship between intentions and behaviors within the context of running.

2. What is the key paper or author/performer who has most inspired your recent research/creative work?

This work is inspired by a continued research agenda on understanding the motivations, constraints, and other consumer and travel behaviors associated with endurance sport athletes. The original works by Deci and Ryan serve as the foundation for this research and as we transitioned into other behaviors beyond motivations, the works Kiki Kaplanidou, Laurence Chalip and Christine Green serve as a models for high-quality research and focuses on the positive impact on participant-led events (e.g., marathons) can have on the participants and the community where the event is placed. This current study focused a lot on a variety of scholars who focus on the intention-behavior relationship within the sport context.

3. How do you see this research/creative piece contributing to new insights in the field/sparking conversation?

This work was funded by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. We presented the research and how organizations can use this information to enhance the user experience and create stronger relationships with users to continue use of public space. The study integrated various constraints to space experience by individuals which helped frame the discussion as safety and access were to key constraints in the data. Similarly, we have shared with running groups and running event managers so they have a better understanding of runner behaviors.

4. Can you describe the contributions of co-authors or collaborators who were essential to the success of this project?    

This was a great group with whom to work. Dr. Lower was the lead author and contributed significantly to survey design, data collection, and theoretical development. Dr. Baker was added after data collection to assist with the data analysis and modeling the results. I assisted Dr. Lower throughout the project with survey design, data collect and theoretical development.

5. What impact do you hope this work makes?

This work was the first known study to evaluate intention-behavior relationship using the ecological framework rather than the theory of planned behavior. Within the discipline, we often look to the main theories of behavior without expanding beyond the constraints associated with those theories, or the value of a longitudinal research design we employed in this study. Our aim was to introduce these two aspects to the discipline in hopes others would follow, and thus, enhance the quality of research in the field. Additionally, we hope organizations that support runners on their journey are better equipped with the variables in this study and how they influence behavior.

6. What is on deck for you as you get started on your next project?

Recently I have begun looking at the influence of service quality in the event space and the influence it has on participant/spectator experience. In the original study, I outlined three different approaches associated with the importance-performance analysis: traditional, competitive and three-factor theory. In this study, it was clear the competitive analysis would be integral for event managers, in particular marathon organization, to understand their event experience and quality from a competitive landscape given the abundance of events and a recent decline in endurance running participation pre-COVID and a slight resurgence over the past year.

7. Where and when do you feel you are the most productive/creative/inspired?

This seems more challenging than ever. Given the context of my work, it’s likely no surprise I’m also a runner. This is one area when I find inspiration, get lost in thought, and an idea or way to frame something develops. Writing is a little different as I need the space and time to do so as well as be in the right mindset to write. One strategy I have found helpful is to leave an idea unfinished but with an outline. This helps me continue to think and germinate ideas while also having a driver to come back to the table to finish that thought.

Read more about Aicher’s work here.