Harris, D. V., & Robinson, W. J. (1986). The effect of skill level on EMG activity during internal and external imagery. Journal of Sport Psychology, 8, 105-111.

This study determined if muscular activity during imagery was specific to muscles needed for actual performance and if individuals of different skill levels using internal or external imagery perspectives demonstrated different amounts of muscular activity. Another purpose was to evaluate the meditation-relaxation approach used in karate training to reduce tonic activity in muscles.

Beginning and advanced (N = 36) karate students were assigned to conditions of imagery perspective (internal/external), skill level (beginning/advanced) and side (right/left) in a counterbalanced design. EMG data were collected for the left and right deltoid muscles before and after a relaxation session, during and between performances of imaginary arm lifts and between imagery perspectives. After testing, Ss completed a questionnaire about the perception of success at imagery.

Skill level was related to muscular innervation and the innervation was specific to the task. Internal imagery produced more innervation than external imagery. Meditation-relaxation did significantly reduce muscular activity.

Implication. Imagery does excite the muscles involved in the events imagined. The excitation is greater if the imagery is internal (i.e., experienced) rather than external (i.e., pictured). Since experienced athletes are better imagers, one could assume that by teaching athletes to perform effective imagery, the athletes will develop a psychological skill that is related to success.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.