The Relationship of Mental Imagery and Mental Rehearsal to Performance of a Motor Task

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 The Pennsylvania State University
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This study examined the relationship of internal and external imaginal rehearsal and imaginal style to skilled motor behavior. Dart throwing was used as the dependent measure of physical performance. All subjects were randomly assigned to a control group, an internal mental rehearsal group, or an external mental rehearsal group. After assessing baseline performance, subjects were instructed to mentally rehearse before throwing sets of three darts. Control subjects were given a distracting task prior to throws. The results showed a slight, negative relation between spontaneous external imagery and physical performance. The mental rehearsal factor, however, was not significant. Males significantly outperformed females, and imagery groups had more variability in improvement scores than the control group for women but not for men. It was proposed that females' lower dart-throwing ability may have caused mental practice to be distracting for some subjects, and thus increased improvement variability in the mental rehearsal group. Conclusions regarding the concept of imaginal style as well as the negative relation between motor performance and the propensity to use external imagery were offered.

I wish to acknowledge my appreciation to Dr. Michael J. Mahoney for his help in the design of this study and for his valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Reprint requests should be sent to Martha Epstein, 602 Moore Building, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.

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