Anxiety and motor performance: Conscious processing and the process goal paradox
Faull, Andrea Leigh
University of Wales
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This thesis examined the process goal paradox and the conscious processing hypothesis (CPH; Masters, 1992) as an explanation for performance decrements in conditions of high cognitive state anxiety. The aims of the thesis were to: (1) investigate the process goal paradox as a means of examining conscious processing effects, (2) examine the number of part process goals as a method of inducing conscious processing and (3) to make use of an interdisciplinary approach to uncover the mechanisms underlying conscious processing effects. The thesis comprised four empirical studies that adopted a range of methodological approaches including quantitative and qualitative research. Study 1 examined the process goal paradox using a part process goal, a holistic process goal, an external goal and a discovery learning group in a driving simulation task in acquisition and across neutral and competition conditions. Study 2 investigated the process goal paradox using a part process goal, a holistic process goal and an external goal, in novice and expert performers in a basketball free throw task in low and high anxiety conditions. Study 3 examined the impact of using a varying number of part process goals when performing under high and low anxiety conditions in expert tennis players. Overall the findings of studies 1, 2 and 3 supported the use of goals in preventing performance decrements under conditions of high anxiety. No support was found for conscious processing. Subsequently, study 4 aimed to ascertain the causes and mechanisms that contribute to performance failure under pressure. Overall, the results of study 4 suggest that performance decrements under conditions of high anxiety are more suitably explained by attentional based theories such as Processing Efficiency Theory (PET; Eysenck & Calvo, 1992) rather than self focus explanations, such as the CPH.
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