Imagery and Performance > Sports Psychology > Article

Imagery and PerformanceImagery, also known as visualization or mental rehearsal, can enhance performance (Felz and Landers 1983; Richardson 1967) and improve self-efficacy in particular motor skill mentally rehearsed. In addition, imagery may serve to reduce anxiety prior to performance (see Inverted-U hypothesis and Psychological Reversal) and increase focus during competition (see Concentration and Attention).

Although imagery seems to improve the cognitive component more than the motor component of the skill (Minas 1978; Wrisberg and Ragsdale 1979; Ryan and Simons 1981, 1983), several studies have demonstrated an increase muscular activity during imagery similar to the actual activity imagined (Jacobson 1930, 1931, 1932, 1973; Freeman 1931; Hale 1982; Harris and Robinson 1986). Incidentally, a greater increase of muscular activity is present when subjects incorporate internal imagery opposed to external imagery (Hale 1981, 1982) Consequently, internal imagery has been associated with better performance (Mahoney and Avener 1977). Muscular activity during imagery may provide kinesthetic feedback which enhances motor programming (Epstein 1980; Corbin 1992).

Inflow processing has been proposed as a mechanism responsible for the effectiveness of imagery. Inflow processing operates in a closed loop system requiring proprioceptive and peripheral feedback (Adams 1971).

Hypothetical Implementation

A competitive figure skater will use imagery as a supplement to her regular training. No physical training will be replaced by imagery. This technique will allow our athlete an opportunity to practice when actual training is not possible. She will be instructed and advised on the benefits and techniques regarding imagery so she can utilize the technique independently.

A minimum amount of experience is essential for effective imagery (Shick 1970; Corbin 1972; Felz and Landers 1983; Phipps and Morehouse 1969; Schramm 1967). Our athlete has had years of experience in the competitive arena. Relaxation training has been incorporated prior to imagery (Hale 1981; Jacobson 1931; Harris and Robinson 1986). We will encourage our athlete to use a systematic relaxation program before relaxation in the early stages of the program and prior to competition. Internal imagery has been associated with better performance (Mahoney and Avener 1977). We will encourage our athlete to concentrate her efforts on internal imagery, especially after her routine is choreographed. Imagery will also be recommended prior to competition to manage pre-event anxiety. We will encourage our athlete to continually discuss her progress and evaluate the effectiveness of her new imagery practices.

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