MORGAN'S ASSOCIATIVE AND DISSOCIATIVE THINKING
Morgan, W. P., & Pollack, M. L. (1977). Psychological characterization of the elite distance runner. In P. Milvy (Ed.), Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 301, 382-403.
Association focuses on bodily sensations, maintaining an awareness of the physical factors which are critical to performance - body signals of respiration, temperature, leg and abdominal sensations - e.g., ". . . they keep reminding themselves to stay loose to relax and not tie up [note the negative thought]." [Morgan, W. P. (1978). The mind of the marathoner. Psychology Today, 11, 38-49. p. 39]
Dissociation focuses on things other than one's own bodily feelings - e.g., solving mathematical tasks, repeating mantras, building a house brick by brick.
These categories and the examples that define them are NOT inclusive of all types of thought that are used in competitions. Jack Gibson said "If the mind says it is tired, the body will agree," which contradicts the limited body-oriented concept of association. However, to associate with the task has all the ingredients of using self-efficacy and specific goal-setting factors, as well as minimizing distractions.
Dissociation takes concentration away from the task, something that is disastrous in activities requiring decision-making. The types of thoughts stipulated in this paper may be those of poor or inexperienced performers and do not reflect the type of thinking associated with high-level or enhanced performance.
Implication. The concepts of association and dissociation used are not appropriate for superior performers. Athletes need to associate with specific factors in physical tasks and mental or game strategies. Controlling the process items of performance is critical. Dissociation should remove all stimuli (e.g., fatigue) which could distract an athlete from positive control and task-focus. Thus, Morgan's use of monitoring bodily sensations is the exact opposite of what athletes need to do to endure pain and produce extended consistent performances.
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