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Lee J. Moore, Samuel J. Vine, Mark R. Wilson and Paul Freeman

Competitive situations often hinge on one pressurized moment. In these situations, individuals’ psychophysiological states determine performance, with a challenge state associated with better performance than a threat state. But what can be done if an individual experiences a threat state? This study examined one potential solution: arousal reappraisal. Fifty participants received either arousal reappraisal or control instructions before performing a pressurized, single-trial, motor task. Although both groups initially displayed cardiovascular responses consistent with a threat state, the reappraisal group displayed a cardiovascular response more reflective of a challenge state (relatively higher cardiac output and/or lower total peripheral resistance) after the reappraisal manipulation. Furthermore, despite performing similarly at baseline, the reappraisal group outperformed the control group during the pressurized task. The results demonstrate that encouraging individuals to interpret heightened physiological arousal as a tool that can help maximize performance can result in more adaptive cardiovascular responses and motor performance under pressure.

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Lee J. Moore, Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine, Adam H. Coussens and Paul Freeman

The present research examined the immediate impact of challenge and threat states on golf performance in both real competition and a laboratory-based task. In Study 1, 199 experienced golfers reported their evaluations of competition demands and personal coping resources before a golf competition. Evaluating the competition as a challenge (i.e., sufficient resources to cope with demands) was associated with superior performance. In Study 2, 60 experienced golfers randomly received challenge or threat manipulation instructions and then performed a competitive golf-putting task. Challenge and threat states were successfully manipulated and the challenge group outperformed the threat group. Furthermore, the challenge group reported less anxiety, more facilitative interpretations of anxiety, less conscious processing, and displayed longer quiet eye durations. However, these variables failed to mediate the group–performance relationship. These studies demonstrate the importance of considering preperformance psychophysiological states when examining the influence of competitive pressure on motor performance.