Professor Maria Kavussanu BSc, MSc, PhD

Professor Maria Kavussanu

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Head of Postgraduate Research
Professor in Sport & Exercise Psychology

Contact details

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Maria Kavussanu is an expert on morality in sport. In her research, she is trying to understand antecedents and consequences of prosocial and antisocial sport behaviour and has conducted extensive work in understanding and preventing doping in sport. Recently, she has developed moral, interventions to combat doping in athletes and to enhance authentic leadership in coaches.

Feedback and office hours

My office hours are: Monday 11-12 and Tuesday 11-12.


  • BSc (University of Athens, Greece)
  • MSc (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
  • PhD (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)


Professor Maria Kavussanu was born in Crete, Greece, where she lived until the age of 18. She studied Physical Education and Sport Science at the University of Athens, Greece. Maria continued her studies abroad after receiving a fellowship from the Greek National State Scholarships Foundation. She obtained a MSc. in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a PhD in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a PhD student, she received the student research award from the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, in 1995 and 1996.   

Maria worked as a lecturer at Illinois State University and then at Loughborough University prior to her appointment at the University of Birmingham in 2002. As a young lecturer, Maria received a young investigator's award from the European College of Sports Science.   

Maria has published over 120 journal articles and book chapters. She has received funding for her research from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Nuffield Foundation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the International Olympic Committee. In her spare time, she plays tennis and swims.


Maria is module organiser for the Year 3 module “Moral behavior and doping in sport and exercise”. She is also part of the module team of the MSci module “Research skills for team science”.

Postgraduate supervision

Please e mail me to inquire about opportunities for postgraduate study in the following areas:

  • Understanding and preventing doping in sport
  • Authentic leadership in coaches
  • Antecedents and consequences of prosocial and antisocial behavior in athletes 

Current Postgraduate Students

  • Thomas Mackman
  • Katherine Sparks 
  • Jennifer Henderson


Maria’s main research interest is morality in sport. She seeks to understand antecedents and consequences of prosocial and antisocial behaviour in sport. Some of the research questions Maria is trying to answer are: Why some athletes are inclined to cheat and be aggressive toward other players, whereas others refrain from such behaviours and like to play by the rules? Why some athletes are more likely to help their opponents and support their teammates? What are the consequences of such behaviours and how can we reduce antisocial and promote prosocial behaviour in the sport context?  

Maria is also interested in the antecedents and consequences of achievement goals in sport and the conditions that optimise athletes’ motivation in training and competition contexts. Some of her secondary interests  are performance under competitive pressure and parental influence in sport.

Research Grants

  • International Olympic Committee ($367,012). Title: Preventing doping in sport: A moral intervention in young British, Greek, and Italian athletes. 2016-2018. Applicants: Role: Kavussanu, M. (PI), Barkoukis, V., Lucidi, F., & Ring, C.

  • International Olympic Committee ($244,021). Project title: Development and evaluation of an anti-doping intervention app targeting the psychological variables that make an athlete susceptible to doping. Applicants: Jalleh, G., (PI) Donovan, R., Gucciardi, D. Kavussanu, M., & Dimeo, P.
  • World Anti-Doping Agency ($85,762). Project title: From evidence to application: A psychosocial anti-doping intervention for young athletes. Applicants: Kavussanu, M. (PI), Elbe, A.M., & Hatzigeorgiadis, A.
  • Australian Research Council ($247,985). Project title: Evaluation of a psychological anti-doping intervention for athletes. Grant awarded to: G. Jalleh (PI), Donovan, R., Gucciardi, D., Dimeo, P., Barkoukis, V., & Kavussanu, M.
  • World Anti Doping Agency ($45,445). Project title: A cross-cultural approach to a cross-cultural issue: Psychosocial factors and doping in young athletes. Grant awarded to: Kavussanu, M. (PI), Elbe, A.M., & Hatzigeorgiadis, A.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (£99,961). Project title: The social and cognitive neuroscience of performance under pressure. Grant awarded to C.M. Ring (PI),M. Kavussanu, & R. Masters (2011)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (£99,913): Project title: Morality in sport: A social neuroscience perspective. Grant awarded to M. Kavussanu (PI) & C.M.  Ring (2008)
  • The Nuffield Foundation (£9,571). Project title: Observed antisocial behaviours in sport: Examining age and gender differences and exploring the underlying mechanisms. Grant awarded to M. Kavussanu (2007)

Other activities


  • Editor-in-Chief: Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology – Official Journal of the American Psychological Association, Division 47. 2020 IF: 4.250.  2016-2021
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology – Official journal of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology. 2012-2015
  • Associate Editor, International Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology – Official journal of the International Society of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2011-2013 

Editorial Board Memberships

  • International Review of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2008 – present)
  • Psychology of Sport and Exercise (2011 – 2015)
  • Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (2011– 2015)
  • Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (2009 – 2013)
  • Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (2011 – 2012) 

Other Appointments

  •  Panel (Institutional review) for the review of the Sport and Physical Education course, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Hellenic Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency, Greece, 2019.
  • External panel member, University of East Anglia, Validation - FdSc Sport Science and BSc Top Up Sport Science, Brooksby Melton College, Brooksby, Leicestershire, 2015.
  • Member of the re-approval panel, FdSc Sports Coaching and Development, UCS Bury St Edmunds, University of East Anglia, 2014.


Recent publications


Henderson, J, Kavussanu, M, Gallicchio, G & Ring, C 2024, 'Effects of task difficulty on performance and event-related bradycardia during preparation for action', Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 70, 102548.

Kavussanu, M, Zhang, S, Tang, Q, Cumming, J & Mackman, T 2024, 'Mental health in athletes: Does authentic leadership matter?', Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 73, 102617.

Henderson, J, Kavussanu, M, Cooke, A & Ring, C 2024, 'Some pressures are more equal than others: Effects of isolated pressure on performance  ', Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 72, 102592.

Hurst, P, King, A, Massey, K, Kavussanu, M & Ring, C 2023, 'A national anti-doping education programme reduces doping susceptibility in British athletes', Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 69, 102512.

Malloy, E, Yukhymenko-Lescroart, M & Kavussanu, M 2023, 'Investigating the relationship between authentic leadership and athletes' commitment, positive affect, and perceived teammate prosocial behaviour via trust and team culture', International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 1082–1090.

Ring, C, Whitehead, J, Gurpinar, B & Kavussanu, M 2023, 'Sport values, personal values and antisocial behavior in sport', Asian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Malloy, E, Kavussanu, M & Mackman, T 2023, 'The effects of authentic leadership on athlete outcomes: an experimental study', Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 29-42.

Hurst, P, Kavussanu, M, Swain, J & Ring, C 2023, 'The role of moral identity and regret on cheating in sport', International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 230–248.

Kavussanu, M, Barkoukis, V, Hurst, P, Yukhymenko-Lescroart, M, Skoufa, L, Chirico, A, Lucidi, F & Ring, C 2022, 'A psychological intervention reduces doping likelihood in British and Greek athletes: a cluster randomized controlled trial', Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 61, 102099.

Malloy, E, Kavussanu, M & Yukhymenko, M 2022, 'Changes in authentic leadership over a sport season predict changes in athlete outcomes', Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 275–289.

Sparks, K, Kavussanu, M, Masters, R & Ring, C 2022, 'Conscious processing and rowing: a field study', International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 515-531.

Ring, C, Kavussanu, M & Cooke, A 2022, 'Effects of cooperation and competition on performance, emotion and effort: goal and means interdependence', Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 86-93.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Kavussanu, M, Boardley, I & Stanger, N 2024, Antecedents and consequences of moral behavior in sport. in L Davis, R Keegan & S Jowett (eds), Social Psychology in Sport. 2nd edn, Human Kinetics. <>

Kavussanu, M, Cooke, A & Jones, M 2023, Ready, Steady, Go: Competition in Sport . in SM Garcia, A Tor & AJ Elliot (eds), Oxford handbook on the psychology of competition. Oxford Library of Psychology, Oxford University Press, pp. C23P1–C23S18.

Review article

Hurst, P, Schiphof-Godart, L, Kavussanu, M, Barkoukis, V, Petróczi, A & Ring, C 2023, 'Are dietary supplement users more likely to dope than non-users? a systematic review and meta-analysis', International Journal of Drug Policy, vol. 117, 104077.

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