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Two studies grounded in ironic-cognitive-processing theory were conducted to determine (a) whether ironic errors may be associated with efforts to exert mental control that typically occur in sport settings and (b) whether these potential ironic effects could be negated through the use of a task-relevant cue word to refocus one’s thoughts during suppression. Participants were asked to watch a videotape of a series of clips of Australian Rules Football players, coaches, and umpires. Study 1 revealed that participants were more aware of umpires when instructed not to pay attention to them. Contrary to expectations, however, ironic effects were not significantly magnified by the combination of high cognitive load and the instruction not to pay attention to the umpires. Results from Study 2 indicated that potential ironic effects could be negated when individuals were given a task-relevant cue word to focus on when suppressing unwanted or negative thoughts. Overall, support for ironic processing theory was found in Studies 1 and 2 in this investigation.
The authors are with the Dept. of Human Movement and Exercise Science at The University of Western Australia, Nedlands. Perth, WA 6907, Australia.