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Chapter 14 Summary

Performance anxiety

  • Performance anxiety is so common it is pretty much seen as normal, but it becomes a problem when it interferes with sporting performance.
  • It is future orientated and produces many physiological symptoms.
  • It happens in all sports but is most prevalent in those sports with high motoric activity.
  • It is often described by the Yerkes–Dodson law but this idea is thought to be rather descriptive and some think faulty.
  • Catastrophy theory is thought by some to describe it better while others point out that the experience of arousal is very important.
  • We can ‘fix’ anxiety by a number of behavioural and cognitive methods and develop strategies for understanding and coping with our anxieties.

    Aggression in sport
  • Defining aggression is quite easy but often commentators, pundits and coaches use the term incorrectly, which leads to a general confusion about the concept.
  • Aggression is common in sport because it is common in life. Sport is meant to be a socially acceptable means of expressing aggression and many promote its cathartic effect.
  • Mostly though, researchers believe that witnessing sporting aggression tends to make people more not less aggressive. This is not true for all sports.
  • All too often aggression is reinforced in sport and this in turn tends to teach people to be more aggressive.
  • Aggression does not occur in all sports and even those where it is common psychologists have identified a number of mediating factors which make it more, or less, likely to happen.

    Social facilitation
  • The idea that audiences affect performance has been around for a long time.
  • Trying to figure out how it works has been a thorn in the side of psychology for many years.
  • Zajonc had an elegant theory which said that audiences increased drive or arousal, that this arousal made performing novel tasks in front of an audience difficult but we can often perform well-rehearsed tasks better.
  • Glaser and others pointed out several problems with this theory.
  • Slightly more modern theories of social facilitation try to be less overarching and can be applied more directly to sport.
  • These more focused ideas can enable us to understand more of what goes on in when an athlete competes in front of a crowd.

    Groups and teams
  • The way in which a team interacts is to do with roles, norms and cohesion.
  • Whilst we may be able to identify what kind of team we need to win, having it and making it work are two different things.
  • Process losses ‘get in the way’ of the team reaching its maximum potential.
  • The Ringelmann effect is one example of where individuals do try as hard as they could.
  • The more cohesive a team the better it plays and that cohesion is often related to more group socializing off the field.

  • There is a difference between a coach and a manager.
  • The trait approach says that managers are born, not made.
  • The behavioural approach says that individuals can learn to manage and can learn to manage better too.
  • The interactionist approach says that the secret to leadership is to to get the right kind of manager in the right place.

    Individual differences
  • ‘Credulous’ psychologists believe that personality is an important part of sporting prowess.
  • ‘Sceptical’ psychologists do not.
  • Personality as a subject divides up into state and trait theorists.
  • Traits are permanent, stable parts of personality whereas states are not.
  • Traits make predictions about the future easier than states which are better at describing what goes on in a particular situation.
  • The inflexible nature of traits means that they are often ‘wrong’ because people can be moody and inconsistent for example.
  • State theory is better at describing behaviour than it is at predicting it.

    Imagery and mental rehearsal
  • We know that many athletes use mental rehearsal as part of their training and competition.
  • Not everyone has the ability to perform mental rehearsal but most people seem to be able to improve performance using it, but it is most useful if you can already perform the task (i.e. you won’t learn how to ski by mentally rehearsing it but if you can already ski you can improve by using it).
  • There are three different kinds: internal where one imagines how doing it feels; external where one imagines seeing oneself doing it; and outcome imagery where one imagines successfully finishing the competition.
  • There are three main theories of why it works: psycho-neuromuscular theory, symbolic learning theory and bio-informational theory.
  • There is equivocal evidence for all of these theories and we are left with the conclusion that we know it works but we don’t know why.

  • We can divide motivation into intrinsic (doing it for its sake) and extrinsic (doing it for a reward).
  • We can also think of the amount of motivation we have as a function of relationship between our need to achieve and our fear of failure.