Individuals high in alexithymia use high-risk sport to regulate their anxiety. Given the conceptual similarities between arduous high-risk sports and extreme endurance running, we investigated the relationship between alexithymia and the anxiolytic effects of endurance running. We measured marathon and ultramarathon runners (n = 35) on alexithymia, and pre- and postrace anxiety. Bootstrapped regression analyses using MEMORE revealed that alexithymia moderated the relationship between pre- and postrace anxiety such that there was a significant anxiety reduction for individuals high in alexithymia only. In conclusion, extreme endurance running provides an emotion regulation function for individuals high in alexithymia. The modest sample size points to the need for replication and further exploration.
Alexithymia and the Anxiolytic Effect of Endurance Running
Tim Woodman and Charlotte Welch
Tenenbaum and Becker’s Critique: Much Ado about Nothing
Tim Woodman and Lew Hardy
We (Hardy, Woodman, & Carrington, 2004) recently proposed an innovative segmental quadrant analysis for exploring the role of self-confidence within a higher-order catastrophe model framework. Using this exploratory analysis, we found initial support for the main hypothesis, namely that the maximum interaction effect size between cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety would be located at a lower level along the somatic anxiety continuum for conditions of low self-Cong compared to conditions of high self-confidence. In the present issue of this journal, Tenenbaum and Becker (2005) offer a critique of this study. In formulating their critique they have employed four principal approaches: (a) a largely indiscriminate critique of catastrophe model research as a whole; (b) a more specific critique of the method and analysis employed in our study; (c) a misrepresentation of our own work and that of previous authors; and (d) abundant confusion and irrelevancy. We address each of these issues in turn.
Anxiety and Ironic Errors of Performance: Task Instruction Matters
Recep Gorgulu, Andrew Cooke, and Tim Woodman
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.
Don’t Miss, Don’t Miss, D’oh! Performance When Anxious Suffers Specifically Where Least Desired
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.
Ironic and Reinvestment Effects in Baseball Pitching: How Information About an Opponent Can Influence Performance Under Pressure
Rob Gray, Anders Orn, and Tim Woodman
Are pressure-induced performance errors in experts associated with novice-like skill execution (as predicted by reinvestment/conscious processing theories) or expert execution toward a result that the performer typically intends to avoid (as predicted by ironic processes theory)? The present study directly compared these predictions using a baseball pitching task with two groups of experienced pitchers. One group was shown only their target, while the other group was shown the target and an ironic (avoid) zone. Both groups demonstrated significantly fewer target hits under pressure. For the target-only group, this was accompanied by significant changes in expertise-related kinematic variables. In the ironic group, the number of pitches thrown in the ironic zone was significantly higher under pressure, and there were no significant changes in kinematics. These results suggest that information about an opponent can influence the mechanisms underlying pressure-induced performance errors.
Is Self-Confidence a Bias Factor in Higher-Order Catastrophe Models? An Exploratory Analysis
Lew Hardy, Tim Woodman, and Stephen Carrington
This paper examines Hardy’s (1990, 1996a) proposition that self-confidence might act as the bias factor in a butterfly catastrophe model of stress and performance. Male golfers (N = 8) participated in a golf tournament and reported their cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, and self-confidence prior to their tee shot on each hole. All anxiety, self-confidence, and performance scores were standardized within participants in order to control for individual differences. The data were then collapsed across participants and categorized into a high self-confidence condition and a low self-confidence condition by means of a median split. A series of two-way (Cognitive Anxiety × Somatic Anxiety) ANOVAs was conducted on each self-confidence condition in order to fag where the maximum Cognitive Anxiety × Somatic Anxiety interaction effect size lay along the somatic anxiety axis. These ANOVAs revealed that the maximum interaction effect size between cognitive and somatic anxiety was at a higher level of somatic anxiety for the high self-confidence condition than for the low self-confidence condition, thus supporting the moderating role of self-confidence in a catastrophe model framework.
Precompetition Self-Confidence: The Role of the Self
Stuart Beattie, Lew Hardy, and Tim Woodman
Higgins’ (1987) self-discrepancy theory holds that certain emotions occur as a result of discrepancies between pairs of psychological entities called self-guides. The present study explored self-discrepancies in self-confidence in relation to performance and cognitive anxiety. Slalom canoeists (n = 81) reported ideal, ought, and feared levels of self-confidence 3 hours before a national ranking slalom tournament. Within a half-hour of the start of the race, canoeists reported their actual self-confidence and cognitive anxiety levels. Hierarchical multiple-regression analyses revealed that self-discrepancies predicted significantly more performance variance than actual self-confidence alone. Additionally, hierarchical multiple-regression analyses revealed that, contrary to the specific predictions of self-discrepancy theory, ideal and feared discrepancies (not “ought” and “feared” discrepancies) significantly predicted cognitive anxiety. Additional findings, implications, and directions for further research into the nature of the self in sport are discussed.
The Role of Repression in the Incidence of Ironic Errors
Tim Woodman and Paul A. Davis
The role of repression in the incidence of ironic errors was investigated on a golf task. Coping styles of novice golfers were determined using measures of cognitive anxiety and physiological arousal. Following baseline putts, participants (n = 58) performed a competition putt with the opportunity to win UK£50 (approx. US$100). Before completing the competition putt participants were instructed to “land the ball on the target, but be particularly careful not to over-shoot the target.” The distance the ball traveled past the hole formed the measure of ironic effects. Probing of the coping style × condition interaction, F(2, 41) = 6.53, p < .005, revealed that only the repressors incurred a significant increase in ironic error for the competition putt. This suggests that the act of repressing anxiety has a detrimental performance effect.
Skydiving as Emotion Regulation: The Rise and Fall of Anxiety Is Moderated by Alexithymia
Tim Woodman, Nicolas Cazenave, and Christine Le Scanff
We investigated alexithymia and the fuctuation of anxiety in skydiving women. Alexithymia significantly moderated the pre- to postjump fluctuation of state anxiety such that only alexithymic skydivers’ anxiety diminished as a consequence of performing a skydive. This suggests that skydiving is an effective means of emotion regulation for alexithymic women. However, the significant rise in anxiety shortly after landing suggests that any emotional benefits are short-lived. No anxiety fuctuations emerged for nonalexithymic skydivers. The Alexithymia × Time interaction remained significant when controlling for age, experience, and trait anxiety. Results are discussed in terms of the potential dependence on risk-taking activities for alexithymic women.
An Investigation of the Zones of Optimal Functioning Hypothesis Within a Multidimensional Framework
Tim Woodman, John G. Albinson, and Lew Hardy
Hanin’s (1980) zones of optimal functioning (ZOF) hypothesis suggests that a person is most likely to attain peak performance within an individual, specific bandwidth of state anxiety. The present study investigated Hanin’s ZOF hypothesis within a multidimensional framework, whereby zones of optimal functioning were computed for cognitive and somatic anxiety. Participants (N = 25) were members of a competitive bowling league; they completed the CSAI- 2 prior to each league match over a period of 20 weeks. Performance was operationalized as each participant’s score in the first game of each match, and these scores were standardized within subjects. The analysis revealed a significant main effect for somatic anxiety zone level and a significant interaction between cognitive and somatic anxiety zone levels (below, in, and above zone) and subsequent performance. Results are discussed in terms of the theoretical implications for future researchers, specifically in relation to the cusp catastrophe model.