Beilock, S. L., Afremow, J. A., Rabe, A. L., & Carr, T. H. (2001). "Don't miss!" The debilitating effects of suppressive imagery on golf putting performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23, 200-221.

Suppressive imagery involves trying to avoid an error. Novice golfers (N = 126) were assigned to a no-imagery control group or to one of six groups mixing imagery type (positive, suppression, suppression-replacement) and frequency (before each putt, before every third putt). The replacement activity in the suppression-replacement condition involved replacing the unwanted thought with a neutral or task-appropriate thought.

Positive imagery Ss improved performance across imaging blocks regardless of the frequency of imaging. Suppression and suppression-replacement groups did not improve when imaging before every putt, but did improve when imaging before every third putt. Attempting to replace negative thoughts with corrective images does not ameliorate the damage caused by the negativity.

Implication. The frequent thinking of performance errors produces performance decline rather than improvement. Performance improvements result from positive thinking. The development of positive thinking skills and the elimination of negative thinking (e.g., through using thought-stopping) in athletes are tasks that should be undertaken by coaches.

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