Five experiments that examined Wegner’s theory of ironic processes of mental control in reactive motor performance under pressure are presented for the first time. In Experiments 1, 2, and 4, the authors conducted specific examinations of the incidence of an ironic error using a reactive motor task. In Experiments 3 and 5, they provided the first tests of whether task instruction moderates the incidence of ironic errors. The task required participants to react to a series of three primary-colored balls as they rolled down a chute under low- and high-anxiety conditions. Measures of anxiety, heart rate, heart-rate variability, and muscle activity confirmed the effectiveness of the anxiety manipulation. Experiments 1, 2, and 4 revealed that anxiety increased the number of ironic errors. In Experiments 3 and 5, the authors provided the first evidence that instructional interventions can reduce the incidence of anxiety-induced ironic performance errors in reactive motor tasks.
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Recep Gorgulu, Andrew Cooke, and Tim Woodman
Tim Woodman, Matthew Barlow, and Recep Gorgulu
We present two novel tests of Wegner’s (1994) theory of ironic processes of mental control using a hockey penalty-shooting task (Study 1) and a dart throwing task (Study 2). In Study 1 we aimed to address a significant limitation of ironic effects research in a performance setting by differentiating nonironic performance error from specifically ironic performance error. When instructed not to miss in a specific direction, anxious performers did so a significantly greater number of times; importantly, there was no difference in nonironic error, which provides the first specific support for Wegner’s theory in a performance setting. In Study 2, we present the first examination of the precision of ironic errors. When anxious, participants performed not only more ironically but also performed more precisely in the to-be-avoided zone than when they were not anxious. We discuss the results in the context of the importance of specific instructions in coaching environments.