Perkins, D., Wilson, G. V., & Kerr, J. H. (2001). The effects of elevated arousal and mood on maximal strength performance in athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 13, 239-259.

There are two conflicting theories of arousal and how it affects performance.

  1. High arousal contributes to inhibited performance.
  2. High positive arousal enhances performance (reversal theory).

Elite athletes (M = 22; F = 6) were induced into a high arousal goal-directed motivational state and a high arousal non-goal-directed process focused motivational state. Personalized guided imagery and paced breathing were used to change arousal levels.

Strength performance increased when arousal was high and coupled with positive excitement. Heart rate and other indications of nervous system activity were not found to mediate between psychological arousal and performance.

Implication. When maximal performance over a short period is required, high positive arousal coupled with goal-direction facilitates performance. Structuring pre-performance strategies to deliberately develop such a motivational state would be a valuable psychological activity.

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