mental preparation

key words and theorys: inverted U theory, cue utilisation hypothesis,

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Attentional control involves selective attention.


  • The inverted u theory predicts that as arousal increases so does the quality of performance up to an optimum point.
  • Arousal levels which are above or below the optimum point will result in a poor performance
  • The reasoning behind the theory requires understanding of the attentional control and cue utilisation hypothesis.

CUE UTILISATION: The process that facilitates maximum attentional control, allowing decision making and effective performance to take place.

HYPERVIGILANCE: A condition of panic that severly impedes selective attention and info processing

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Cue utilisation hypothesis

  • When arousal is low, the perceptual field of the performer widens and access is given to a wide range of irrelevent enviromental cues.
  • Focusing on the selective attention then becomes difficult, as a result the information processing system is overloaded with irrelevant stimuli.
  • As arousal increases the perceptual field will narrow allowing an ideal width to perform.
  • Narrowing allows attention to be focused on only the most important cues.
  • At optimum threshold the selective attention is in full operation and the capacity to focus is maximised.
  • Capacity to focus is called cue utilisation
  • if arousal increases above this points the perceptual focus narrows excessively.
  • Narrowing causes relevant data to be missed and info processing becomes restricted
  • Under these conditions the performer will experience hypervigilence.
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Although cue utilisation decribes how attentional control is maximised , it does not decribe how a performer can adjust the width and direction of attention in response to a varying situation encountered in sport.

NIDEFFER presented a model of attentional styles based on 2 dimensions.

1. Broad & Narrow focus relating to width of attention.

2. External and internal focus relating to direction of attention.

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  • Broad attention takes in a great amount of enviromental info, including peripheral cues/stimuli (e.g focusing on many defenders and their actions)
  • A narrow focus is required to focus on one or small number of stimuli. ( e.g focusing on the tennis ball during a serve)
  • The broad and narrow dimension is a continuum, a gradual change in the amount of info to be processed
  • An internal focus indicates that the performers attention has been inwards and onto a psychological state.9e.g mentally rehearsal of start of a race)
  • External focus enable the athlete to focus on enviromental factors.(e.g a coach giving a team talk.)

Optimum performance can only be achieved if performer can adopt attention styles according to the situation. Optimum arousal and cue utilisation will help the performer to shift their attentional style to match the attentional demands of the siutuation.

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There are 2 Forms of anxiety:

1. Cognitive anxiety: the thought component of anxiety and accompanies somantic anxiety . it is associated by worry and fear of negative evaluations of performance.

2. Somantic anxiety : the physical component is associated with increase HR, Bp, - physical symptoms of increased arousal. Somantic anxiety is triggred by cognitive anxiety.

There is a second dimension relating to the stability of anxiety:

  •  State anxiety- a person's immediete condition of anxiety in any one situtation - unstable and temporary
  • Trate anxiety: part of personality - relatively stable.
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Hanin's model of the individual zone of optimum fu

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  • Hanin proposed that there are differences in the way people respond to anxiety
  • Some performers succeeded when anxiety is low others when anxiety was high.= each athlete has their own prefered level of anxiety
  • The prefered level of anxiety is shown in a band. Rather than a point like the catastrophe or innerted U theory
  • In this band they are neither to low or too high to achieve optimum performance. If in the band they're likely to perform their best.
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Peak Flow Experience

The characteristics of peak flow from an elite athlete are skills being performed effortlessly and controlled.

  • According to martens peak flow is experienced when there is high somantic anxiety and low cognitive anxiety
  • Many factors combine to to bring the peak flow state.
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Anxiety Managment techniques

2 types of anxiety managment techniques

1. somantic anxiety managment relating to physical processes

  • Biofeedback
  • Progressive Muscular Relaxation

2. Cognitive anxiety managment relating to thought process.

  • Imagery
  • Thought stopping
  • positive self-talk
  • Rational thinking
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Imagery cog technique

Imagery is used to help relaxation and focus. There are 2 forms:

1. External imagery - the athlete pictures performing the task successfully

  • can be very effective if athlete can form outside picture
  • Athlete must be skilled and experienced if the picture is to be of value

2. internal imagery- mental rehearsal of skill and techniques. it focuses on specific elements without picturing the whole scene. eg just imagining a pass with out other players.

  • Mental rehearsal can stimulate nervous system and muscles in a way that replicates the real situation
  • it is most effective with learners who can associate the correct kinaesthetics feel to the skill to the correct outcome.
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Thought stopping and positive self- talk (cog tech

Thought stopping: The athlete refuses to think negatively . Any negative thinking is stopped and subsituted with positive thought.

  • May be more affective if person is confident/extroverted.
  • Introverted individuals tend to find negative thinking difficult to avoid.

Positive self-talk : The athlete endorses their own ability by talking to themselves.

  • Speaking aloud commits athlete to task and does much to raise confidence
  • only of value if performers are experienced and of a high standard.
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Rational thinking- cog technique

Rational thinking: Anxiety grows when there is an imbalance of perception between ability and situational demands. Rational thinking involves, focusing inwardly on internal narrow styles of attention and is evaluating the situation in possible logical sequences.

  • it works if athlete had skill and experience to evaluate a situation realistically, otherwise the athlete would not make the situation rational.
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Biofeedback- somatic anxiety technique

BIOFEEDBACK:Physical changes that happen to the body when arousal and anxiety increase,such as  HR, Bp and skin temp. are measured when a performer is becoming anxious. Once the changes are being monitored it is thought that the performer can control the physiological effects of excessive anxiety and adopt a calmer state. 

  • There is strong evidence that biofeedback improves performance
  • Physiological indicators of relaxation are different in each individual, so it is necessary to be aware of variations before extent of arousal can be assessed.
  • Biofeedback only be done if the performer is over aroused and should not be done if the performer is already relaxed.
  • Takes time and often requires sophisticated equipment and may not be practical before performance.
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Progressive Muscular Relaxation

Progressive muscular relaxation: The athlete increases the tension of  muscles throughout the body and gradually relaxes each group in turn.

  • Many studies have proven PMR helps relaxation
  • PMR only successful if used alongside other relaxation treatment / techniques
  • It is time consuming taking 30 to 45 mins to complete
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