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.
Jeffrey E. Hecker and Linda M. Kaczor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jennifer Cumming, Tom Olphin and Michelle Law
The aim of the present study was to examine self-reported psychological states and physiological responses (heart rate) experienced during different motivational general imagery scenarios. Forty competitive athletes wore a standard heart rate monitor and imaged five scripts (mastery, coping, anxiety, psyching up, and relaxation). Following each script, they reported their state anxiety and self-confidence. A significant increase in heart rate from baseline to imagery was found for the anxiety, psyching-up, and coping imagery scripts. Furthermore, the intensity of cognitive and somatic anxiety was greater and perceived as being more debilitative following the anxiety imagery script. The findings support Lang’s (1977, 1979) proposal that images containing response propositions will produce a physiological response (i.e., increase heart rate). Moreover, coping imagery enabled the athletes to simultaneously experience elevated levels of anxiety intensity and thoughts and feelings they perceived as helpful.
Douglas P. Jowdy and Dorothy V. Harris
The purpose of the present investigation was to determine if the magnitude of muscular activity concomitant with mental imagery is a function of motor skill level. Male undergraduates (N=38) between 18 and 24 years of age were assigned to either a high skilled (n=23) or low skilled (n = 15) group of jugglers. All subjects completed the Movement Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ) (Hall & Pongrac, 1983) and imagined themselves juggling for eight 15-second trials while the amplitude of muscular activity was measured by surface electromyography. There was a significant increase in muscular activity during mental imagery across all subjects (p<.001), but the difference between the high and low skilled groups was not significant. This lack of difference may suggest that the differential effects of imagery based upon skill level are not due to the neuromuscular activation during imagery.
Deborah L. Feltz and Camala A. Riessinger
An experiment was conducted to investigate the relative merits of in vivo emotive imagery and performance feedback in enhancing self-efficacy beliefs and performance on a competitive muscular endurance task. College males (n=60) and females (n=60) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: mastery imagery plus feedback, feedback alone, or control condition. Subjects in the imagery-plus-feedback condition were told that one of the pair (always the subject) would receive imagery exposure while the other (always the confederate) would wait outside. Subjects performed two trials against the confederate, who always won by 10 seconds. A Group x Trials interaction for self-efficacy revealed a significant increase for the imagery group after brief exposure. Also, imagery subjects had significantly higher efficacy scores than feedback alone or control subjects after each performance trial. A Group x Trials interaction for performance indicated that imagery subjects initially had significantly longer performance times than did feedback alone or control subjects. Performance feedback alone did not influence efficacy beliefs or performance.
Sarah E. Williams, Jennifer Cumming and George M. Balanos
The present study investigated whether imagery could manipulate athletes’ appraisal of stress-evoking situations (i.e., challenge or threat) and whether psychological and cardiovascular responses and interpretations varied according to cognitive appraisal of three imagery scripts: challenge, neutral, and threat. Twenty athletes (M age = 20.85; SD = 1.76; 10 female, 10 male) imaged each script while heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output were obtained using Doppler echocardiography. State anxiety and self-confidence were assessed following each script using the Immediate Anxiety Measures Scale. During the imagery, a significant increase in heart rate, stroke volume, and cardiac output occurred for the challenge and threat scripts (p < .05). Although there were no differences in physiological response intensities for both stress-evoking scripts, these responses, along with anxiety symptoms, were interpreted as facilitative during the challenge script and debilitative during the threat script. Results support using imagery to facilitate adaptive stress appraisal.