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.
The authors are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, United Kingdom.