The theory of ironic processes of mental control (Wegner, 1994) is reviewed in the context of typical issues confronted by sport psychology professionals. The theory maintains that mental control is achieved through the interaction of an operating process directed toward achieving thoughts, emotions, and actions that are consistent with particular goal states, and a monitoring process for identifying inconsistencies with the goal state, insuring that any threat to the operating process is recognized and handled accordingly. Moreover, mental control normally functions at a satisfactory level, but under conditions of cognitive load, the likelihood of effective self-regulation is reduced. Given the load-inducing circumstances of sport and exercise participation, reasons for the occasional failure of mental control in these settings are offered. Traditional and current sport psychology issues and interventions are interpreted considering the theory of ironic processes, with specific reference to imagery, self-confidence, pain perception, mood state regulation, anxiety, and attention.
Ironic Mental Processes in Sport: Implications for Sport Psychologists
Christopher M. Janelle
Anxiety and Performance: A Visual Search Examination of the Processing Efficiency Theory
Nicholas P. Murray and Christopher M. Janelle
The purpose of this study was to examine the central tenets of the Processing Efficiency Theory (PET) in the context of a dual-task auto racing simulation. Participants were placed into either high or low trait-anxiety groups and required to concurrently undertake a driving task while responding to one of four target LEDs upon presentation of either a valid or an invalid cue located in the central or peripheral visual field. Eye movements and dual-task performance were recorded under baseline and competition conditions. Anxiety was induced by an instructional set delivered prior to the competition condition. Findings indicated that while there was little change in driving performance from baseline to competition, response time was reduced for the low-anxious group but increased for the high-anxious group during the competitive session. Additionally there was an increase in search rate for both groups during the competitive session, indicating a reduction in processing efficiency. Implications of this study include a more comprehensive and mechanistic account of the PET and confirm that increases in cognitive anxiety may result in a reduction of processing efficiency, with little change in performance effectiveness.
Self-Presentation Origins of Choking: Evidence From Separate Pressure Manipulations
Christopher Mesagno, Jack T. Harvey, and Christopher M. Janelle
Whether self-presentation is involved in the choking process remains unknown. The purpose of the current study was to determine the role of self-presentation concerns on the frequency of choking within the context of a recently proposed self-presentation model. Experienced field hockey players (N = 45) were randomly assigned to one of five groups (i.e., performance-contingent monetary incentive, video camera placebo, video camera self-presentation, audience, or combined pressure), before taking penalty strokes in low- and high-pressure phases. Results indicated that groups exposed to self-presentation manipulations experienced choking, whereas those receiving motivational pressure treatments decreased anxiety and increased performance under pressure. Furthermore, cognitive state anxiety mediated the relationship between the self-presentation group and performance. These findings provide quantitative support for the proposed self-presentation model of choking, while also holding implications for anxiety manipulations in future sport psychology research.
Old Dogs, New Tricks: Training the Perceptual Skills of Senior Tennis Players
Ryan J. Caserta, Jessica Young, and Christopher M. Janelle
The purpose of the study was to determine whether multidimensional perceptual-cognitive skills training, including situational awareness, anticipation, and decision making, improves on-court performance in older adults when compared with a physical training program, including stroke and footwork development. Senior tennis players (N = 27) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: perceptual-cognitive skills training, technique-footwork training, or no training. Results indicated that participants receiving perceptual-cognitive skills training had significantly faster response speeds, higher percentage of accurate responses, and higher percentage of performance decision making in posttest match situations. Findings provide clear evidence that perceptual-cognitive skills can be trained in aged individuals. Implications and suggestions for future research are offered.
External Distraction and Attentional Narrowing: Visual Search Evidence
Christopher M. Janelle, Robert N. Singer, and A. Mark Williams
We examined distraction and attentional narrowing in a dual-task auto-racing simulation. Participants were randomly assigned to six groups: distraction control, distraction anxiety, relevant control, relevant anxiety, central control, and central anxiety. Those in central conditions performed a driving task; the other four groups identified peripheral lights in addition to driving. Irrelevant peripheral lights were included in distraction conditions. Participants in anxiety conditions were exposed to increasing levels of anxiety via a time-to-event paradigm. In 3 sessions of 20 trials, measures of cognitive anxiety, arousal. visual search patterns, and performance were recorded. At higher levels of anxiety, the identification of peripheral lights became slower and less accurate. and significant performance decrements occurred in central and peripheral tasks. Furthermore, visual search patterns were more eccentric in the distraction anxiety group. Results suggest that drivers who are highly anxious experience an altered ability to acquire peripheral information at the perceptual level.
Emotional State Impacts Center of Pressure Displacement Before Forward Gait Initiation
Bradley Fawver, Garrett F. Beatty, Kelly M. Naugle, Chris J. Hass, and Christopher M. Janelle
Emotional states influence whole-body movements during quiet standing, gait initiation, and steady state gait. A notable gap exists, however, in understanding how emotions affect postural changes during the period preceding the execution of planned whole-body movements. The impact of emotion-induced postural reactions on forthcoming posturomotor movements remains unknown. We sought to determine the influence of emotional reactions on center of pressure (COP) displacement before the initiation of forward gait. Participants (N = 23, 14 females) stood on a force plate and initiated forward gait at the offset of an emotional image (representing five discrete categories: attack, sad faces, erotica, happy faces, and neutral objects). COP displacement in the anteroposterior direction was quantified for a 2 second period during image presentation. Following picture onset, participants produced a posterior postural response to all image types. The greatest posterior displacement was occasioned in response to attack or threat stimuli compared with happy faces and erotica images. Results suggest the impact of emotional states on gait behavior begins during the motor planning period before the preparatory phase of gait initiation, and manifests in center of pressure displacement alterations.
Cortico-cortical Communication and Superior Performance in Skilled Marksmen: An EEG Coherence Analysis
Sean P. Deeny, Charles H. Hillman, Christopher M. Janelle, and Bradley D. Hatfield
Electroencephalographic (EEG) coherence was assessed during a 4-s aiming period prior to trigger pull in expert marksmen (n = 10) and skilled shooters (n = 9) over the course of a regulation round of small-bore rifle shooting. Although both groups were highly experienced, the skilled group had lower ability. Given that specialization of cortical function occurs as domain-specific expertise increases, experts were predicted to exhibit less cortico-cortical communication, especially between cognitive and motor areas, compared to the skilled group. Coherence was assessed for three frequency bands (low alpha, 8–10 Hz; high alpha, 10–13 Hz; and low beta, 13–22 Hz) using sites F3, Fz, F4, C3, Cz, C4, T3, T4, P3, Pz, P4, O1, and O2. Compared to the skilled group, experts exhibited lower coherence between left temporal (T3) and mid-line frontal (Fz) regions for low-alpha and low-beta frequencies, lower coherence for high-alpha between all left hemisphere sites and (Fz), and lower coherence between T3 and all midline sites for the low-beta band. The results reveal that, compared to lesser skilled shooters, experts engage in less cortico-cortical communication, particularly between left temporal association and motor control regions, which implies decreased involvement of cognition with motor processes.
Perceptual-Cognitive Expertise in Sport: A Meta-Analysis
Derek T.Y. Mann, A. Mark Williams, Paul Ward, and Christopher M. Janelle
Research focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport is abundant. However, the existing qualitative syntheses of this research lack the quantitative detail necessary to determine the magnitude of differences between groups of varying levels of skills, thereby limiting the theoretical and practical contribution of this body of literature. We present a meta-analytic review focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport (N = 42 studies, 388 effect sizes) with the primary aim of quantifying expertise differences. Effects were calculated for a variety of dependent measures (i.e., response accuracy, response time, number of visual fixations, visual fixation duration, and quiet eye period) using point-biserial correlation. Results indicated that experts are better than nonexperts in picking up perceptual cues, as revealed by measures of response accuracy and response time. Systematic differences in visual search behaviors were also observed, with experts using fewer fixations of longer duration, including prolonged quiet eye periods, compared with nonexperts. Several factors (e.g., sport type, research paradigm employed, and stimulus presentation modality) significantly moderated the relationship between level of expertise and perceptual-cognitive skill. Practical and theoretical implications are presented and suggestions for empirical work are provided.
Expertise Differences in Cortical Activation and Gaze Behavior during Rifle Shooting
Christopher M. Janelle, Charles H. Hillman, Ross J. Apparies, Nicholas P. Murray, Launi Meili, Elizabeth A. Fallon, and Bradley D. Hatfield
The purpose of this study was to examine whether variability in gaze behavior and cortical activation would differentiate expert (n = 12) and nonexpert (n = 13) small-bore rifle shooters. Spectral-activity and eye-movement data were collected concurrently during the course of a regulation indoor sequence of 40 shots from the standing position. Experts exhibited significantly superior shooting performance, as well as a significantly longer quiet eye period preceding shot execution than did nonexperts. Additionally, expertise interacted with hemispheric activation levels: Experts demonstrated a significant increase in left-hemisphere alpha and beta power, accompanied by a reduction in right-hemisphere alpha and beta power, during the preparatory period just prior to the shot. Nonexperts exhibited similar hemispheric asymmetry, but to a lesser extent than did experts. Findings suggest systematic expertise-related differences in ocular and cortical activity during the preparatory phase leading up to the trigger pull that reflects more optimal organization of the neural structures needed to achieve high-level performance.