Type of Document Dissertation Author Luis, Calmeiro Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-08112006-172106 Title The Dynamic Nature of the Emotion-Cognition Link in Trapshooting Performance Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Gershon Tenenbaum Committee Chair Anders Ericsson Committee Member David Eccles Committee Member Jeannine Turner Committee Member Robert Eklund Committee Member Keywords
- Sport Performance
- Verbal Protocols
- Cognitive Appraisals
Date of Defense 2006-08-08 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
Emotion constitutes a fundamental dimension of human lives, determining the quality of life experiences, and organizing and guiding perceptions, thoughts and actions. Emotion is thought to interact with cognition to influence behavior in a variety of settings. Researchers in sport psychology are currently paying increased attention to the role of emotion in sport performance. The emotion-cognition link is a promising approach to the study of the mechanisms through which affective experiences in sport emerge and are associated with performance. However, researchers need to advance the study of emotions to include ecologically valid methods that can tap into the cognitive-affective experience of athletes during an actual competition.
The purpose of the present study is to describe the emotion-cognition link during a series of trapshooting competitions, utilizing an ideographic and longitudinal approach. Specifically, four main questions ere addressed: (a) How do athletes’ affective states fluctuate during performance, and how do they vary when they perform optimally and non-optimally? (b) how do athletes appraise and cope with different performance states? (c) how do cognitive-emotional processes differ in elite and non-elite athletes during different performance qualities? and (d) do athletes’ heart rate (HR) patterns differ when performing optimally and non-optimally?
Two elite and four non-elite trapshooters, ages ranging from 21 to 58 years, participated in this study. Trapshooting competitions last two days and generally consist of six sets of twenty five targets each. To measure affective states during competition, participants completed the Affect Grid after each target during one or two competitions. The Affect Grid is a 9 x 9 grid where athletes mark a specific square corresponding to a given pleasure and arousal levels. During competition, they also wore a Polar S810i heart rate (HR) monitor to record HR during “aiming” and “pull” stages of the shot. After, each set participants answered a retrospective delayed verbal protocol to describe thoughts and emotions during critical and non-critical periods of performance. Athletes’ verbal reports were coded and analyzed according to a coding scheme, which was based on Lazarus’ (1999) Cognitive-motivational-relational (CMR) theory of emotion. The categories were: (a) threat appraisals, (b) challenge appraisals, (c) predominantly problem-focused coping, (d) predominantly emotion-focused coping, and (e) withdrawal coping. Intra-rater reliability reached an agreement rate of 90.8%, and inter-rater reliability reached a value of kappa = .91.
Fluctuations of affective states during performance were limited. More skilled athletes showed a more stable pattern of affective states than less skilled athletes. Fluctuations of affective states were associated with subjective evaluation of performance. In the majority of participants, pleasure and arousal were higher after hit targets and during non-critical performance periods than before misses and during critical performance periods, respectively. However, considerable individual variability was observed.
Data from verbal protocols was analyzed for event sequences using the Data Analysis Tool (DAT; Jeong, 2003) to calculate the probability of pairs of events occurring. Event sequences were analyzed as a function of perceived performance periods: non-critical periods, consisting of good or easy performance periods, and critical periods, consisting of periods of poor or difficult performance. Athletes perceived more threat when experiencing critical performance periods, utilized more emotional-focused coping during these periods, which were associated to negative emotions. Withdrawal was utilized under conditions of decreased likelihood of personal goal attainment, and was associated with negative emotions. Problem-focused coping was utilized more often during non-critical periods than during critical periods, and were associated with feelings of control and confidence. After missed targets, emotion-focused coping strategies were more directed towards venting of emotions, and self-blame. After hit targets, athletes also used emotion-focused coping, but with the purpose of reassuring themselves that all was well. Interestingly, this last function of coping was more often utilized by elite athletes during critical periods. These results confirm other studies in which athletes engage in a variety of coping strategies. However, this study provides evidence that this variability is a consequence of the individual’s relational meaning of an encounter, as athletes utilized different strategies as a function of situational constraints.
Compared with non-elite athletes, elite athletes were more likely to deal with threat appraisals by using a variety of emotion-focused coping and problem-focused coping. Elite athletes’ emotion-focused strategies were more directed towards accepting responsibility and distancing. Perhaps as consequence, these athletes also used more sequences of problem-focused coping after emotion-focused coping than non-elite athletes. These results are consistent with the concept that experts are better self-regulators than non-experts.
There was a pattern of a marked decrease of HR, or less marked increase of HR, from “aiming” to “pull” before hits and during non-critical performance periods. This is consistent with findings of decreased HR before trigger pull in pistol and riffle shooting due to higher attentional focus on external stimuli and/or decreased cognitive interference. HR was also higher before hit targets and non-critical periods for some athletes, which may represent better readiness for action. However, considerable variability existed in terms of direction and magnitude of the differences, indicating diverse individual needs.
This study represents an idiographic account of the dynamic nature of the emotion-cognition link during performance. Considerable variability was observed which reinforces the need for considering the individual’s phenomenological experience during the evolving context of stressful sport competitions. These experiences are more likely to be captured by studying athletes’ adaptational encounters with methods and in contexts of high ecological validity.
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