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ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS:The Inverted-U Theory

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Sport Psychology (PSY407)
Lesson 19
ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS
This lecture is a continuation of lecture eighteen. We were looking at anxiety, arousal, and stress
relationship, and had divided this topic into six sections, they were:
1.
Differentiating among the terms anxiety, arousal and stress
2.
The multidimensional nature of anxiety
3.
Antecedents of anxiety
4.
Measurement of anxiety
5.
Time-to-event nature of precompetitive anxiety
6.
The relationship between anxiety and performance
We have looked at the first three sections in lecture eighteen and the remaining will be discussed in this
lecture.
Measurement of Anxiety
In recent years, the preferred method of measuring trait and state anxiety has been through the use of
pencil-and-paper inventories. Some commonly used inventories utilized or developed by sport
psychologists are listed below:
Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT)
TRAIT
Unidimensional
Multidimensional
Sport Anxiety Scale (SAS)
Unidimensional
Competitive State Anxiety Inventory (CSAI)
STATE
Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2)
Multidimensional
While pencil-and-paper inventories are the most common measures of anxiety, behavioral and
psychological assessments can be very effective. One category of behavioral measurement is direct
observation, where the experimenter looks for objective signs of arousal in the subject and records
them. Such things as nervous fidgeting, licking the lips, rubbing palms on pants or shirt, and change in
respiration could all be interpreted as behavioral signs of activation. The list on the next page shows
overt behavioral responses that can be used by the athlete to identify indicators of distress, or state
anxiety.
Checklist for Monitoring Distress-Related Behavioral Responses of the Athlete:
Clammy Hands
Tense Muscles
Diarrhea
Tense Stomach
Dry Mouth
Trembling Legs
Fidgeting
Unsettled Stomach
Increased Respiration
Voice Distortion
Irritability
Jitters
Licking of Lips
Mental Confusion
Mental Fatigue
Nausea
Need to Urinate
Physical Fatigue
Rapid Heart Rate
Scattered Attention
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Time-To-Event Nature of Precompetitive Anxiety
The ability to obtain independent measures of cognitive and somatic state anxiety has greatly enhanced our
knowledge about the athletic situation. One of the factors that is believed to significantly influence the quality of
the athletic experience is the level of state anxiety during the time leading up to competition. We have already
referred to this as precompetitive anxiety.
Precompetitive cognitive anxiety starts relatively high and remains high and stable as the time-to-event
approaches. Conversely, somatic anxiety remains relatively low until approximately twenty-four hours before the
event, and then increases rapidly as the event approaches. Once performance begins, somatic anxiety dissipates
rapidly, whereas cognitive state anxiety fluctuates throughout the contest as the probability of success/failure
changes.
The Relationship between Arousal and Athletic Performance
It is now necessary to use the term arousal as somewhat synonymous with state anxiety. This is the case because
researchers have routinely employed a test of state anxiety as the primary means for determining a subject's
arousal level. Consequently, most of the reported research will relate negative anxiety to sport and motor
performance.
The primary focus is to explain the relationship between arousal and athletic performance: It can be explained
by inverted-U theory and drive theory.
Inverted-U theory explains why the relationship between arousal and performance is curvilinear as opposed to
linear in nature. Conversely, drive theory proposes a linear relationship between arousal and performance.
The Inverted-U Theory
The inverted U theory has been around for as long as the arousal/performance relationship has been studied. It
simply states that the relationship between performance and arousal is curvilinear as opposed to linear, and takes
the form of an inverted-U.
One of the difficulties encountered in testing the inverted U theory with humans is our inability to precisely
measure arousal. For example, if in a particular study researchers fail to demonstrate that heightened arousal
causes a decrement in performance, it is not particularly damaging to the theory. The reason for this is that it
can always be argued that for that particular task, arousal was not high enough. If it had been higher
performance would have been declined. The problem is that from a human rights standpoint, the amount of
arousal researchers can induce is limited. For example, if arousal is induced through electric shock, how much
can the researcher elevate the voltage without violating the subject's rights?
Similarly as can be observed, a high level of arousal is necessary for the best performance in gross motor
activities such as weight lifting. Conversely, a lower level of arousal is best for a fine motor task such as putting
in golf. Each sport skill has its theoretical optimal level of arousal for best performance. Regardless of which
type of skill is being performed, they all conform to the inverted-U principle. Specifically, performance is lowest
when arousal is very high or very low, and highest when arousal is moderate, or optimum.
Evidence of an inverted-U relationship between athletic performance and arousal is documented in the
literature. Klavora (1978), Sonstroem and Bernardo (1982), were able to demonstrate that basketball
performance is related to level of arousal, with best performance occurring at moderate levels of arousal and
poorest performance tat high ot low levels. Similarly Simons, and Vevera (1987) and Burton (1988) reported
that best performance in pistol shooting and swimming, respectively, were related to somatic anxiety in away
consistent with inverted U predictions.
While it seems relatively clear that the nature of the relationship between athletic performance and arousal takes
the form of the inverted U, it is not clear why this occurs.
Drive Theory
The great contribution of drive theory is that it helps to explain the relationships between learning and arousal,
and between performance and arousal. Many young athletes are just beginning the process of becoming skilled
performers. The effect of arousal upon a beginner may be different from its effect upon a skilled performer.
The basic relationship between arousal and an athlete's performance at any skill level is given in the
following formula:
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Performance = Arousal x Skill Level
The basic tenets of drive theory are as follows:
1.  Increased arousal (drive) will elicit the dominant response.
2.  The response associated with the strongest potential to respond is the dominant response.
3.  Early in learning or for complex tasks, the dominant response is the incorrect response.
4.  Late in learning or for simple task, the dominant response is the correct response.
We can make several practical applications of these drive theory tenets. First, heightened levels of
arousal should benefit the skilled performer, but hamper the beginner. The coach with a relatively
young team should strive to create an atmosphere relatively low in anxiety and arousal. Low levels of
arousal should increase the beginner's chances of a successful performance. In turn, the experience of
success should strengthen self confidence. Skilled athletes, on the other hand, will benefit from an
increase in arousal. Similar applications can be made to the performance of simple and complex tasks.
For example, a complex task, such as throwing a knuckleball in baseball, will always require a low level
of arousal. Conversely, a very simple task, such as doing as high number of push-ups, would seem to
benefit from arousal. Utilizing drive theory predictions, the researchers hypothesized that increased
arousal caused by major league baseball pressure situations would cause a decrement in batting ( a
complex task). Four late-game pressure situations were compared with no pressure situations relative to
batting performance. Results showed a decrement in batting performance associated with increased
arousal, as predicted by drive theory.
Drive theory received tremendous amounts of attention from researchers between 1943 and 1970.
however, since then, interest in the theory has diminished significantly. The theory was extremely
difficult to test, and the tests that were conducted often yielded conflicting results.
References
Cox, H. Richard. (2002). Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications. (Fifth Edition). New York:
McGraw-Hill Companies
Lavallec. D., Kremer, J., Moran, A., & Williams. M. (2004) Sports Psychology: Contemporary Themes.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers
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Table of Contents:
  1. SPORT PSYCHOLOGY DEFINED:Issue of Certification, The Research Sport Psychologist
  2. SELF-CONFIDENCE AND SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Successful Performance, Verbal persuasion
  3. SELECTING SELF-TALK STATEMENTS:Skill accusation, Controlling effort
  4. GOAL ORIENTATION:Goal Involvement, Motivational Climate
  5. CAUSAL ATTRIBUTION IN SPORT:Fritz Heiderís Contribution, Other Considerations
  6. CAUSAL ATTRIBUTIONS IN COMPETITIVE SITUATIONS:Locus of Causality
  7. MOTIVATION IN SPORT:Social Factors, Success and Failure, Coachesí Behavior
  8. FLOW: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE, Goal Setting in Sport
  9. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING:Clearly identify time constraints
  10. A TEAM APPROACH TO SETTING GOALS:The Planning Phase, The Meeting Phase
  11. YOUTH SPORT:Distress and anxiety, Coach-Parent Relationships
  12. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Information Processing, Memory Systems
  13. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Measuring Attentional Focus
  14. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Personality Defined, Psychodynamic Theory
  15. THE MEASUREMENT OF PERSONALITY:Projective Procedures, Structured Questionnaire
  16. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Athletic Motivation Inventory, Personality Sport Type
  17. SITUATIONAL FACTORS RELATED TO ANXIETY AND MOOD:Type of Sport
  18. ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS:Emotion and Mood
  19. ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS:The Inverted-U Theory
  20. ALTERNATIVES TO INVERTED-U THEORY:Apterís Reversal Theory
  21. COPING STRATEGIES IN SPORT:Measurement of Coping Skill
  22. RELAXATION STRATEGIES FOR SPORT:Progressive Relaxation, Autogenic Training
  23. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Team Energizing Strategies, Fan Support
  24. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Precompetition Workout, Individual Goal Setting
  25. IMAGERY:Skill Level of the Athletes, Time Factors and Mental Practice
  26. IMAGERY:Symbolic Learning Theory, Imagery Perspective. Sensory Mode
  27. IMAGERY:Paivioís Two-Dimensional Model, Developing Imagery Skills
  28. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Defining Hypnosis, Social-Cognitive Theory
  29. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Achieving the Hypnotic Trance, Hypnotic Phase
  30. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Psychological Skills Training Program
  31. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Performance profiling, Performance routines
  32. ETHICS IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Competence, Integrity, Social Responsibility
  33. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:Defining Aggression, Catharsis hypothesis
  34. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:The Catharsis Effect, Fan Violence
  35. AUDIENCE AND CROWD EFFECTS IN SPORTS:Social Facilitation, Crowd Hostility
  36. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Measurement of Team Cohesion
  37. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Predicting Future Participation, Team Building
  38. LEADERSHIP IN SPORT:Fiedlerís Contingency Theory, Coach-Athlete Compatibility
  39. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Special Populations, Clinical Patients
  40. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Social Interaction Hypothesis, Amine Hypothesis
  41. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:The Theory of Planned Behavior, Social Cognitive Theory
  42. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Exercise Addiction, Bulimia Nervosa, Muscle Dysmorphia
  43. BURNOUT IN ATHLETES:Overtraining and Overreaching, Recommended Intervention
  44. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ATHLETIC INJURIES:Personality Factors, Coping Resources
  45. DRUG ABUSE IN SPORT AND EXERCISE:Stimulants, Depressants