Perceptions of assisted cognitive and sport performance enhancement among university students in England

Perceptions of assisted cognitive and sport performance enhancement among university students in England / Elisabeth Julie Vargo, Ricky A. James, Kofi Agyemana, Thomas MacPhee, Ross McIntyre, Flaminia Ronca, Andrea Petróczi. - (Performance Enhancement & Health 3 (2014) 2 (June); p. 66-77)

  • DOI: 10.1016/j.peh.2015.02.001


There has been an ongoing research effort to understand the morality of athletes using prescription and illicit drugs to enhance sporting performance. By comparison, perceptions around the ethics of university students using prescription drugs to enhance academic performance (known as cognitive enhancement or neuroenhancement) are less well understood. This study compared how university students responded to the ethical considerations of using performance enhancing substances across sporting and academic contexts. A total of 98 participants from universities in the United Kingdom completed a Brief Implicit Association Test, a brief version of the Performance Enhancement Attitude Scale, an explicit cognitive enhancer attitude assessment and reported their views on four scenarios regarding sports doping and the use of cognitive enhancers by university students. The implicit association did not show a significant polarisation of students’ moral attitudes. Explicit measures showed a stronger disagreement towards doping behaviours. Those professionally involved in sport found chemical enhancement more acceptable than other respondents, suggesting an instrumental viewpoint and a transfer of social knowledge from one domain of drug use to the other. Participants perceived the use of enhancers in sport and education as “cheating” when it affected others, but believed cognitive enhancement could be necessary due to competitiveness of the job market. Results suggest that chemical enhancement was considered acceptable by some student groups. The proportion of the sample knowing someone who used cognitive enhancers (13%) or someone who doped (19%) suggests that substance based performance enhancement may be normalising and increasing in popularity.

Original document


Research / Study
15 February 2015
Agyemana, Kofi
James, Ricky A.
MacPhee, Thomas
McIntyre, Ross
Petróczi, Andrea
Ronca, Flaminia
Vargo, Julie
United Kingdom
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Kingston University London
University of Sheffield
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Scientific article
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Pdf file
Date generated
15 October 2020
Date of last modification
20 October 2020
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