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Jeremy R. Dugdale and Robert C. Eklund

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.

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Jeremy R. Dugdale, Robert C. Eklund and Sandy Gordon

The purpose of this study was to investigate appraisals and coping of elite athletes when facing expected versus unexpected stressors. Questionnaires were sent to all New Zealand athletes competing at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, and 91 athletes provided responses inside three weeks of the closing ceremony. A stressful experience that had occurred prior to or during their most important performance was identified by 71 althletes. Analysis revealed significant differences in the way athletes cognitively appraised expected and unexpected stressors. Unexpected stressors were perceived as more threatening than expected stressors. Athletes also indicated a significantly greater tendency to hold back or hesitate from responding or acting in the face of unexpected stressors in comparison to expected stressors. Athletes employed a variety of strategies to help them cope with their most stressful experience. Stressor expectedness, however, was not related to coping use or performance and coping evaluations. Finally, a modest but significant relationship was observed between coping strategy effectiveness and coping automaticity. These findings suggest that competitively functional primary and secondary cognitive appraisals of stressors may result from the preparation of athletes for potentially distressing events and circumstances associated with major international competitions.