VISUALIZATION IS THE WRONG CONCEPT AND LABEL TO USE IN SPORTS
Cautela, J. R., & Kearney, A. J. (Eds.), Covert conditioning casebook. Boston: Brooks-Cole (pp. 30-31).
It should be stressed that one does not see themselves in scenes as if they were watching themselves in a movie or video, but rather they should imagine they are actually in and totally experiencing the situation described.
"The term visualization, which is often used in the imagery literature, has, unfortunately, sometimes been misleading in giving the impression that only the visual modality should be used. Actually, as many additional sense modalities as are appropriate should be involved, such as hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and kinesthetic perceptions." (p. 30)
Applications of covert conditioning, which is the better structure for mental imagery activities, usually involve sets of two scenes: (a) a scene of the target behavior, and (b) a scene of the consequences of that behavior. It is important that the client shift quickly between them both. Without this structure, behaviors will be rehearsed without reinforcement. Unfortunately, that is a common but most probably ineffective, practice.
A further element of mental imagery that strengthens its effects is the communication of image clarity during the activity. If an individual is imaging in the presence of another individual, the raising of an index finger to indicate that image clarity (vividness) and control has been achieved is a means of producing very focused practice. When individuals practice alone, some physical action to indicate to themselves that clarity has been achieved will strengthen the process and increase the likelihood that a focused and correct form of imagery is performed.
At the transition from the scene to the consequence a term such as "reinforcement" should be thought or even muttered to indicate control and achievement of the scene. That recognition also produces a higher degree of control and separation between the two elements which enhances the rigor of the procedure.
Implication. These features have been shown to be very effective and increase the impact of imagery. Unfortunately, the common perception of imagery is all that is needed is for a coach or athlete to state the word "visualize." Full imagery is a powerful tool for affecting movement learning and enhancement. It currently is not being exploited fully because of a lack of appreciation and understanding of the ingredients that are necessary to proceed in the most effective manner. The items discussed above need to be implemented in an imagery process.
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