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Shane M. Murphy, Robert L. Woolfolk and Alan J. Budney

In this study, subjects were asked to select three different images they thought would make them angry, fearful, or relaxed. After imagining each scenario, subjects attempted a strength task utilizing a hand grip dynamometer. As predicted by the Oxendine hypothesis, the relaxation image significantly lowered performance on the strength task. Although subjects in the fear and anger conditions reported increased levels of arousal, no increase in strength performance was noted in these two conditions. A cognitive interpretation of the relationship between arousal and performance is advanced in explanation of the present findings. Specifically, it is suggested that preparatory arousal is effective only if subjects focus their attention while aroused on a successful outcome of performance. This explanation is consistent with current conceptualizations of cognitive preparation strategies as coping skill devices by which athletes manage their performance. Future research directions are suggested based upon the present findings.

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Peter Suedfeld and Talino Bruno

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E. Dean Ryan and Jeff Simons

Male college students (N= 39) learned two novel perceptual motor tasks differing in demand across a cognitive-motor continuum, under conditions of physical practice (PP), mental practice (MP), or no practice (NP). On each task, the PP group was given 12 actual trials; the MP group received one actual, nine mental, then two actual trials; and the NP group received one actual trial, 10 minutes rest, then two actual trials. Results showed no difference in learning between MP and NP groups on the predominantly motor task, with the PP group significantly superior to both. On the predominantly cognitive task, however, the MP group performed as well as the PP group, and both were significantly superior to the NP group. Two additional questions concerning the influences of imaging ability and relative frequency of mental practice rendered equivocal results.

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Christina Lee

There is a shortage of evidence regarding exactly how mental imagery works to enhance performance. This study sought to determine whether it is the imagining of the task that is crucial or simply the positive aspects of a mental image. In the first experiment, 52 male students used task relevant imagery, task irrelevant imagery, or a distraction control procedure before performing an analogue task. Those in the task relevant condition showed significantly greater improvements over baseline. The second experiment involved 142 male students and included assessment of mood state following psyching up. Again the task relevant group showed significantly greater improvements, which were not related to mood states. These findings suggest that the specific content of mental imagery is crucial in determining its effect on performance. The effect does not appear to depend on alterations of mood state and may operate through cognitive preparation.

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Robert L. Woolfolk, Shane M. Murphy, David Gottesfeld and David Aitken

An investigation was carried out concerning the effect of imagery instructions on a simple motor skill accuracy task (putting a golf ball). Male college students (N = 50) were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in a design that allowed the presence or absence of mental rehearsal of the physical movements involved in the task to be completely crossed with the imaginal depiction of task outcome (successful, unsuccessful, or no outcome component). A significant outcome by trials interaction was found on task performance. This finding reflected the degradation of performance in the conditions employing negative outcome imagery rather than any enhancement of performance by positive outcome imagery. Self-efficacy was found to be correlated with performance, but this association seemed to be a by-product of the strong relationships between these variables and performance on the previous trial. Results are discussed in relation to the existing literature, and future research directions are delineated.

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Pamela S. Highlen and Bonnie B. Bennett

Elite wrestlers (n = 39) and divers (n = 44), representing open- and closed-skill sports, respectively, completed a survey assessing psychological factors associated with training and competition. Of particular interest were factors distinguishing qualifiers from nonqualifiers within and between each sport type. Discriminant analyses and t-tests revealed that as expected self-confidence and concentration distinguished qualifiers from nonqualifiers in both sport groups. Also, as predicted, use of imagery differentiated only the qualifying from the nonqualifying divers. Self-talk items also distinguished the two diving groups on more items than they differentiated the wrestlers. However, when all elite divers were compared with their wrestling counterparts, no differences were found for the imagery scale and self-talk frequency, instruction, and praise items. Anticipatory anxiety patterns for divers and wrestlers were different, with successful divers and less successful wrestlers reporting higher precompetition levels of anxiety. During competition nonqualifiers across sport type reported higher anxiety. Implications for a sport-specific typology of psychological characteristics are discussed.

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Daniel Gould, Robert Weinberg and Allen Jackson

Two experiments were conducted to determine if different mental preparation strategies produced differential strength performance and whether arousal was the major mediating variable explicating this relationship. In the first experiment, 15 male and 15 female subjects performed under five different mental preparation conditions in a 2 × 5 (sex by mental preparation strategy) Latin square design. The mental preparation conditions included: attentional focus, imagery, preparatory arousal, a control-rest condition, and a counting backwards cognitive-distraction condition. Immediately after employing each technique, all subjects performed four trials on a leg-strength task, and measures of state anxiety and other cognitions were then obtained. The findings revealed that the preparatory arousal and imagery techniques produced the greatest change in performance, with preparatory arousal subjects also reporting the greatest changes in cognitive states. However, due to the possibility of range effects resulting from the within-subjects design used in Experiment I, a second between-subjects experiment was conducted. Thirty males and 30females performed in a 2 × 3 (sex by mental preparation) design using the preparatory arousal, imagery and control conditions of Experiment 1. Only the preparatory arousal condition was found to facilitate performance. However, no consistent changes in cognitive states were found between experiments, and these inconsistent findings were interpreted as being caused by methodological problems associated with self-report assessment of cognitive states.

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Pamela S. Highlen and Bonnie B. Bennett

Elite wrestlers (N = 39) were given a standardized questionnaire during final competition for positions on three Canadian World Wrestling teams. The questionnaire specifically focused upon psychological factors affecting both their training and competition. For data analysis, questionnaire items were combined into 17 factors. Both t-tests and simple discriminant function analyses for qualifier/nonqualifier competitive status revealed that self-confidence was the most important factor distinguishing the two groups. For the discriminant function analysis, Imagery and Factors Affecting Performance were the only factors which did not contribute to group differences. Explanations and implications of these results for sport psychology are discussed.