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IMAGERY:Skill Level of the Athletes, Time Factors and Mental Practice

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Sport Psychology(psy407)
VU
Lesson 25
IMAGERY
Successful athletes use imagery and visualization to their advantage. Not all athletes are able to verbally
describe exactly how they use imagery, but some can. Some great athletes who have commented on the use
of imagery in preparing for competition include Michael Jordan in basketball, Chris Evert in tennis and
Nancy Kerrigan in figure skating. Imagery has been successful for great athletes.
Imagery is a cognitive-behavioral intervention technique. This topic will be discussed in great detail over the
next three lectures. The topic is divided into eight sections, which include:
1.
Defining imagery
2.
Mental practices as a form of imagery
3.
Theories of why imagery works
4.
Imagery perspective and sensory mode
5.
Measurement of imagery
6.
Conceptual models for studying imagery
7.
Developing imagery skills
8.
Cognitive-behavioral interventions using imagery and relaxation
Defining Imagery
Imagery has been defined as "using all the senses to re-create an experience in the mind".
An expansion of this brief definition clarifies that (a) an image can be created in the mind in the absence of
any external stimulus (b) an image may involve one or all of the senses (c) an image is created from
information stored in the sensory register, working memory, or long-term memory.
Imagery has been identified as one of the most important topics in cognitive science. Two general theories
of imagery have evolved;
a.  Pictorialist
b. Descriptionist
The pictorialists state that when we imagine a scene in our mind's eye, we are scanning an actual image that
has somehow formed in our brain. The descriptionist argues that there is no such thing as a mental image.
That is, when we imagine a physical scene in our mind's eye, we are not really seeing an internal image, but
the graphic and detailed nature of our language makes it seem so. Our thoughts, as it were, actually
manufacture an image so clear that we think we are seeing one.
Regardless of whether the pictorialist or the descriptionist perspective is most accurate, the images are very
real to us. Imagery is the language of the brain. In a real sense, the brain cannot tell the difference between
an actual physical event and the vivid imagery of the same event. For this reason, imagery can be used by
the brain to provide powerful repetition, elaboration, intensification, and preservation of important athletic
sequences and skills.
The powerful effects of images and thoughts are highlighted by a study reported by Hale and Whitehouse
(1998). They presented skilled soccer players with videos of critical game situations in which either the word
"challenge" or the word "pressure" was flashed on the screen. The word "pressure" resulted in an increase
in self-reported anxiety and a decrease in self-confidence compared to the presentation of the word
"challenge." The images we see influence the emotions we feel, which in turn influence how we perform.
© Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan
79
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Sport Psychology(psy407)
VU
Mental Practice as a Form of Imagery
Mental practice literature provides evidence that imagery is an effective cognitive-behavioral process for
enhancing learning and performance of motor skills. Literature review concludes that mental practice is
more effective than no practice. Mental practice used in a complementary fashion with physical practice
often yields the best results. The literature suggests that in addition to physically practicing a sport skill, the
athlete should spend a small amount of time rehearsing execution of the skill in her mind. Mental practice
occurs prior to actual physical practice (mental rehearsal), or it can occur at a time when actual physical
practice is not possible (e.g., while traveling, in the locker room, while resting). Research with mental
practice has also revealed several principles that enhance the effectiveness of mental practice. These
principles are:
Skill Level of the Athletes
An important finding associated with mental practice is that advanced performers benefit from mental
practice to a much greater extent than beginners. Research conducted on high school boys showed that
mental practice was almost as effective as physical practice for advanced players, but physical practice was
far superior to mental practice for beginners.
In other words, a coach or a teacher should not expect mental practice to be effective with athletes who are
unskilled in their sports. The more skillful they are, the more useful mental practice will be for them.
Cognitive Component of the Skill
Mental practice is most effective for activities that require some thinking and planning (Hird, Landers,
Thomas & Horan, 1991; Ryan & Simons, 1981). Playing golf would be an example of task that has a large
cognitive component. You need to workout which sort of swing, or which club will provide the shot you
desire.
Mental practice is less effective in a motor task that has a small cognitive component. A bench press in
weight lifting would be an example of a motor skill that would seem to have a small cognitive component.
Time Factors and Mental Practice
When it comes to mental practice, more is not necessarily better. Using basketball task, Etnier and Landers
(1996) demonstrated that when an athlete hold physical practice constant, mentally practicing for one to
three minutes is more beneficial than mentally practicing for five to seven minutes. In this same study it was
also demonstrated that mental practice may be more beneficial than mental practice following physical
practice. This gives greater credence to the use of mental rehearsal immediately prior to competition.
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
© Copyright Virtual University of Pakistan
80
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