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Dave Smith and Paul Holmes

This study examined the effect of various imagery modalities on golf putting performance. Forty experienced male golfers were randomly assigned to one of four groups. A “written script” group received a personalized, response proposition-laden script. Participants in the audio and video groups either listened to an audiotape or watched an internal-perspective videotape of themselves putting. Control participants spent an equivalent amount of time reading golf literature. Each participant completed a 15-ball putting task twice a week for 6 weeks and also performed his imagery or reading daily during this period. Pretests revealed no significant differences in performance. Posttests, however, showed that the video and audio groups performed significantly better than the written script and control groups. This indicates that the form in which an imagery intervention is delivered can have a significant impact on its performance effectiveness.

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Lew Hardy and Nichola Callow

Three experiments examined the relative efficacy of different imagery perspectives on the performance of tasks in which form was important. In Experiment 1,25 experienced karateists learned a new kata using either external or internal visual imagery or stretching. Results indicated that external visual imagery was significantly more effective than internal visual imagery, which was significantly more effective than stretching. In Experiment 2, 40 sport science students learned a simple gymnastics floor routine under one of four conditions: external or internal visual imagery with or without kinesthetic imagery. Results revealed a significant main effect for visual imagery perspective (external visual imagery was best) but no effect for kinesthetic imagery. Experiment 3 employed the same paradigm as Experiment 2 but with high-ability rock climbers performing difficult boulder problems. Results showed significant main effects for both visual imagery perspective (external visual imagery was best) and kinesthetic imagery. The findings are discussed in terms of the cognitive processes that might underlie imagery effects.

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Sian L. Beilock, James A. Afremow, Amy L. Rabe and Thomas H. Carr

The present study examined the impact of suppressive imagery (i.e., trying to avoid a particular error), the frequency of this suppression, and attempts to replace negative error-ridden images with positive ones on golf putting performance. Novice golfers (N = 126) were assigned to a no-imagery control group or to 1 of 6 groups in a 3 × 2 design, with imagery type (positive, suppression, suppression-replacement) and imagery frequency (before every putt, before every third putt) as factors. Results showed that the accuracy of the positive imagery group improved across imaging blocks—regardless of imagery frequency. The suppression and suppression-replacement imagery groups’ accuracy improved when imaging before every third putt, yet declined when imaging before every putt. These findings suggest that frequent application of suppressive imagery hurts performance and that attempting to replace negative images with corrective ones does not ameliorate the damage.

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Jeffrey E. Hecker and Linda M. Kaczor

Bioinformational theory has been proposed by Lang (1979a), who suggests that mental images can be understood as products of the brain's information processing capacity. Imagery involves activation of a network of propositionally coded information stored in long-term memory. Propositions concerning physiological and behavioral responses provide a prototype for overt behavior. Processing of response information is associated with somatovisceral arousal. The theory has implications for imagery rehearsal in sport psychology and can account for a variety of findings in the mental practice literature. Hypotheses drawn from bioinformational theory were tested. College athletes imagined four scenes during which their heart rates were recorded. Subjects tended to show increases in heart rate when imagining scenes with which they had personal experience and which would involve cardiovascular activation if experienced in real life. Nonsignificant heart rate changes were found when the scene involved activation but was one with which subjects did not have personal experience.

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Lucette Toussaint, Nicolas Robin and Yannick Blandin

We examined the similarities between actual and motor imagery practice with regard to the development of sensorimotor representations. Participants had to reproduce knee joint positions (15 or 150 trials) in visuo-proprioceptive or proprioceptive conditions (Experiment 1) or in visual, proprioceptive or visuo-proprioceptive imagery conditions (Experiment 2), before being transferred in a proprioceptive condition. A familiarization session in a proprioceptive condition was performed before imagery practice only (Experiment 2). Results showed that the effect of vision withdrawal varied according to actual or motor imagery practice: performance accuracy in transfer decreased after actual visuo-proprioceptive practice while it increased after visuo-proprioceptive imagery practice. These results suggest that different movement representations can be developed following actual or imagery practice. They also suggest that information from previous experience could be stored in a sensori-motor memory and could be fundamental for the efficiency of motor imagery practice.

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E. Dean Ryan and Jeff Simons

To investigate the mental imagery aspect of mental rehearsal, 80 male traffic officers from the California Highway Patrol learned a novel balancing task during a single session. Based on a pretest questionnaire, subjects were categorized as imagers, nonimagers, or occasional imagers and assigned to one of six groups accordingly: imagers asked to use imagery in mental rehearsal, imagers asked to try not to use imagery, nonimagers asked not to use imagery, nonimagers asked to try to use imagery, physical practice, or no practice. It was hypothesized that a person's preferred cognitive style would prove most effective for use in mental rehearsal and that using another style would cause a decrement in learning. Improvement scores indicated no differences between subjects who initially reported typically using imagery and those reported typically not using it, but groups asked to use imagery in mental rehearsal were superior to those asked not to (p<.001). Overall, physical practice was better than the grouped mental rehearsal conditions, and both were better than no practice. Subjects reporting strong visual imagery were superior to those with weak visual images (p<.03), and those reporting strong kinesthetic imagery were superior to those with weak kinesthetic images (p<.03). Regardless of one's typical cognitive style, the use of vivid imagery appears quite important for enhancement of motor performance through mental rehearsal.

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Gavin Tempest and Gaynor Parfitt

Imagery, as a cognitive strategy, can improve affective responses during moderate-intensity exercise. The effects of imagery at higher intensities of exercise have not been examined. Further, the effect of imagery use and activity in the frontal cortex during exercise is unknown. Using a crossover design (imagery and control), activity of the frontal cortex (reflected by changes in cerebral hemodynamics using near-infrared spectroscopy) and affective responses were measured during exercise at intensities 5% above the ventilatory threshold (VT) and the respiratory compensation point (RCP). Results indicated that imagery use influenced activity of the frontal cortex and was associated with a more positive affective response at intensities above VT, but not RCP to exhaustion (p < .05). These findings provide direct neurophysiological evidence of imagery use and activity in the frontal cortex during exercise at intensities above VT that positively impact affective responses.

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Ross Roberts, Nichola Callow, Lew Hardy, Tim Woodman and Laura Thomas

Two studies examined the interactive effects of different visual imagery perspectives and narcissism on motor performance. In both studies participants completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI-40: Raskin & Hall, 1979) and were assigned to either an internal visual imagery or external visual imagery group. Participants then performed a motor task (dart throwing in Study 1 and golf putting in Study 2) under conditions of practice, low self-enhancement, and high self-enhancement. Following completion of the respective tasks, participants were categorized into high and low narcissistic groups based on their NPI-40 scores. In both studies, high narcissists using external visual imagery significantly improved performance from the low to the high self-enhancement condition, whereas high narcissists using internal visual imagery did not. Low narcissists remained relatively constant in performance across self-enhancement conditions, regardless of perspective. The results highlight the importance of considering personality characteristics when examining the effects of visual imagery perspectives on performance.

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Bruce D. Hale

Mahoney and Avener's (1977) categorization of imagery into “internal” (first-person visual and kinesthetic) and “external” (third-person visual) perspectives suggested a viable means to quantifiably test Jacobson's (1931) finding that “visualizing” a biceps “curl” produced only ocular responses while “muscularly imagining” the same movement just generated localized biceps activity. A significant within-subjects main effect (p < .001) revealed that the internal imagery condition produced more integrated biceps activity than the external imagery condition as predicted by Lang's (1979) bio-informational theory of emotional imagery.

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Dorothy V. Harris and William J. Robinson

This study was designed to determine if muscular innervation during imagery was specific to muscles needed for actual performance and if individuals of different skill levels utilizing two imagery perspectives demonstrated differing amounts of muscular activity. A final purpose was to assess the effectiveness of the meditation-relaxation approach used in karate training to reduce tonic activity in muscles. Beginning and advanced (N = 36) karate students were randomly assigned to counterbalanced conditions of imagery perspective (internal/external) x skill level (beginning/advanced) x side (right/left) in a factorial design. EMG data were collected from both deltoid muscles before and after a relaxation session, during and between performances of imaginary arm lifts and between imagery perspectives. Following testing, a questionnaire involving the subject's perception of success at imagery was completed. The results of this investigation suggest that skill level does influence muscle innervation during imagery and that this innervation appears specific to the muscle group necessary to execute the task. Internal imagery produces more EMG activity than external imagery. The meditation-relaxation techniques used in karate do significantly reduce tonic muscle activity.