IMAGERY, RESTORATION OF CONFIDENCE, AND PERFORMANCERushall, B. S. (1992). The restoration of performance capacity by cognitive restructuring and covert positive reinforcement in an elite athlete. In J. R. Cautela & A. J. Kearney (Eds), Covert conditioning casebook. Boston: Brooks-Cole.
The subject of this report was an elite female rower who experienced declining ergometer performances under testing conditions that were required by the national sport governing body for rowing (Canada). All attempts by S and her coach to rectify the situation had been unsuccessful.
An experiment using an alternating treatment design compared the effects of three forms of thought instructions on maximum ergometer performance scores. Normal thinking was maintained, and voluntary distraction and task-relevant thought conditions were introduced. Task-relevant thinking and covert positive reinforcement produced consistent elevated performance levels. The psychological depression and loss of confidence initially demonstrated by S dissipated as the enhanced levels of performance occurred. Overall performances changed by 15.8%.
Improvements were not associated with any change in the degree of discomfort (perceived exertion) or percent of time spent concentrating while doing the task.
Implication. Structuring an athlete's perception of a task, particularly by directing thoughts toward specific movements and activities to be undertaken, produces a focus for imagery and covert rehearsal of an impending activity that replaces confusion and associated depressed states.
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