The purpose of the study was to identify and describe the four Ws of athletes’ imagery use: where, when, why, and what. Due to the in-depth nature of the questions being asked, a qualitative approach was employed. The participants were 14 elite athletes (7 male and 7 female), representing 7 different sports. A constant comparative method of analysis was conducted by two investigators. A conceptual framework was developed to display the four Ws of imagery use during and outside practice, as well as for pre-competition, competition, and post competition. Results from the present study indicated where and when athletes use imagery, and extended previous findings on why and for what athletes use imagery. It was proposed that a better understanding of the athletes’ images can serve as a guide to future research and from a practical perspective, facilitate the development of more effective imagery interventions.
Krista J. Munroe, Peter R. Giacobbi Jr., Craig Hall and Robert Weinberg
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.
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.
Geraldine H. Van Gym, Howard A. Wenger and Catherine A. Gaul
This study investigated the effect of engaging in imagery in conjunction with nonspecific training on the transfer of the training to performance. Forty subjects were pretested on a Wingate cycle ergometer test for peak power and a 40-m sprint. Subjects were assigned to one of four groups: imagery training (IT), power training (PT), imagery and power training (DPT), and control (C). Following a 6-week training period, all subjects were retested. Although a MANOVA revealed no significant difference between groups on any variable, the groups-by-time interaction was significant. Therefore an analysis of difference scores on both tests was performed. This analysis revealed that although both the IPT and the PT group significantly improved in peak power, only the IPT group improved significantly on the sprint. The results indicate that imagery coupled with nonspecific training contributes to the enhancement of subsequent performance significantly better than does nonspecific training alone.
Sheng Li, Jennifer A. Stevens, Derek G. Kamper and William Z. Rymer
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of motor imagery on the premotor time (PMT). Twelve healthy adults performed reaction time movements in response to external visual signals at rest, when holding an object (muscle activation), or performing different background imagined movements (motor imagery). When compared to rest, muscle activation reduced the PMT; imagined finger extension of the right hand and imagined finger flexion of the left hand elongated the PMT; imagined finger flexion of the right hand had no effect on the PMT. This movement-specific effect is interpreted as the sum of the excitatory effect caused by enhanced corticospinal excitability specifically for the primary mover of the imagined movement and an overall inhibition associated with increased task complexity during motor imagery. Our results clearly demonstrate that motor imagery has movement-specific effects on the PMT.
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.
Sarah E. Williams, Sam J. Cooley and Jennifer Cumming
This study aimed to test Lang’s bioinformational theory by comparing the effects of layered stimulus and response training (LSRT) with imagery practice on improvements in imagery ability and performance of a motor skill (golf putting) in 24 novices (age, M = 20.13 years; SD = 1.65; 12 female) low in imagery ability. Participants were randomly assigned to a LSRT (introducing stimulus and response propositions to an image in a layered approach), motor imagery (MI) practice, or visual imagery (VI) practice group. Following baseline measures of MI ability and golf putting performance, the LSRT and MI practice groups imaged successfully performing the golf putting task 5 times each day for 4 days whereas the VI practice group imaged the ball rolling into the hole. Only the LSRT group experienced an improvement in kinesthetic MI ability, MI ability of more complex skills, and actual golf putting performance. Results support bioinformational theory by demonstrating that LSRT can facilitate visual and kinesthetic MI ability and reiterate the importance of imagery ability to ensure MI is an effective prime for movement execution.
Doris Pogue Screws and Paul R. Surburg
In order to improve motor performance, mental imagery procedures have evolved over the years with nondisabled subjects. Studies researching the concept of using mental imagery with special populations (Surburg, & Stumpner, 1987; Surburg, 1991; Surburg, Porretta, & Sutlive, 1995) are very few in number. This study examined the efficacy of using mental imagery in developing skill on a motorically oriented task (pursuit rotor) and a cognitively oriented task (peg board) on middle school students with mild mental disabilities (MMD). Thirty subjects were assigned randomly to a physical, imagery, or no-practice control group to perform either a peg board or pursuit rotor task. For each motor task, there was a pretest followed by appropriate treatment regime and a posttest session. The dependent variables were the number of pegs placed in appropriate order for the peg board task and time on target for the pursuit rotor task. Results were that imagery practice enhanced the motor performance of children with MMD on both the peg board (cognitively oriented task) and pursuit rotor (motorically oriented task).
Alison White and Lew Hardy
This study employed a qualitative methodology to examine the ways in which imagery is used by high-level slalom canoeists (n = 3) and artistic gymnasts (n = 3). Participants were interviewed about their imagery use and experiences in different environments. Athletes’ responses were analyzed using inductive and deductive procedures. A total of 43 raw data themes formed 10 first order and 3 second order dimensions, characterizing the athletes’ uses of imagery. Participants reported using imagery in a variety of different environments for cognitive and motivational purposes. Data showed several differences between the canoeists’ and gymnasts’ uses of imagery, reflecting the differing task demands of each sport. The experience of imagery was unique to each individual, and athletes were able to emphasize certain aspects or manipulate the content of their images for specific cognitive or motivational functions.
Claire Calmels, Christelle Berthoumieux and Fabienne Fabienne d’Arripe-Longueville
This study examined the effectiveness of an imagery training program in improving national softball players’ selective attention. A multiple-baseline design across individuals was used. There were four participants. One remained at baseline, while the other three spent 10 min a day practicing an audio-taped imagery program composed of 28 sessions. Measures of selective attention were collected via a baseball/softball batting specific version stemming from Nideffer’s (1976) Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS). The results demonstrated that the imagery training program generally enhanced the ability of softball players to integrate external stimuli without being overloaded with them and to narrow attention. Results were discussed in relation to the usefulness of multiple-baseline designs for investigating individual differences among elite athletes. Practical pedagogical considerations for coaching are proposed.