Does Priming Really Put the Gloss on Performance?

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 St Mary’s University College
  • 2 University of Central Lancashire
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Priming has recently emerged in the literature as offering advantages in the preparation for skilled performance. Accordingly, the current study tested the efficacy of imagery against a priming paradigm as a means of enhancing motor performance: in essence, contrasting a preparation technique primarily under the conscious control of the performer to an unconscious technique promoting automaticity. The imagery intervention was guided by the PETTLEP model, while the priming intervention took the form of a scrambled sentence task. Eighteen skilled field-hockey players performed a dribbling task under imagery, priming, skill-focus, and control conditions. Results revealed a significant improvement in speed and technical accuracy for the imagery condition as opposed to the skill-focus, control, and priming conditions. In addition, there were no significant differences in performance times or technical accuracy between the priming and control conditions. The study provides further support for the efficacy of imagery to elicit enhanced motor skill performance but questions the emerging emphasis on priming as an effective tool in preparation for physical tasks.

Stacy Winter is with School of Sport, Health & Applied Science, St Mary’s University College, London, U.K. Dave Collins is with the School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, U.K.

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