Daniel J. Madigan, Andrew P. Hill, Sarah H. Mallinson-Howard, Thomas Curran, and Gareth E. Jowett
Perfectionism and performance have long been intertwined. The conceptual history of this relationship is best considered complex, with some theorists maintaining that perfectionism is likely to impair performance and others more recently suggesting that aspects of perfectionism may form part of a healthy pursuit of excellence. Recent studies on perfectionism and performance in sport, education, and the workplace provide us with evidence that perfectionism is indeed an important characteristic in achievement domains. However, this relationship is exceedingly complex. In examining this relationship empirically, researchers have distinguished between two dimensions of perfectionism. The first is perfectionistic strivings that comprise high personal standards and a self-oriented striving for perfection. The second is perfectionistic concerns that comprise a preoccupation with mistakes and negative reactions to imperfection. With regard to perfectionistic strivings, research has revealed that in certain circumstances they are related to better performance. Evidence for this is strongest in education but notably mixed in sport and the workplace. With regard to perfectionistic concerns, while there is evidence that they may not directly impair performance, there is also enough evidence that they may have a detrimental indirect influence on performance. Based on existing research, we argue that there is currently too little research and too many mixed findings to conclude perfectionistic strivings forms part of a healthy pursuit of excellence. In addition, the role of perfectionistic concerns for performance is likely to be more substantive than currently suggested.
Patrick D. Gajewski and Michael Falkenstein
Healthy aging is associated with changes in sensory, motor, cognitive, and emotional functions. Such changes depend on various factors. In particular, physical activity not only improves physical and motor but also cognitive and emotional functions. Observational (i.e., associations) and cross-sectional studies generally show a positive effect of regular physical exercise on cognition in older adults. Most longitudinal randomized controlled intervention studies also show positive effects, but the results are inconsistent due to large heterogeneity of methodological setups. Positive changes accompanying physical activity mainly impact executive functions, memory functions, and processing speed. Several factors influence the impact of physical activity on cognition, mainly the type and format of the activity. Strength training and aerobic training yield comparable but also differential benefits, and all should be used in physical activities. Also, a combination of physical activity with cognitive activity appears to enhance its effect on cognition in older age. Hence, such combined training approaches are preferable to homogeneous trainings. Studies of brain physiology changes due to physical activity show general as well as specific effects on certain brain structures and functions, particularly in the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, which are those areas most affected by advanced age. Physical activity also appears to improve cognition in patients with mild cognitive dysfunction and dementia and often ameliorates the disease symptoms. This makes physical training an important intervention for those groups of older people.
Apart from cognition, physical activity leads to improvement of emotional functions. Exercise can lead to improvement of psychological well-being in older adults. Most importantly, exercise appears to reduce symptoms of depression in seniors. In future intervention studies it should be clarified who profits most from physical activity. Further, the conditions that influence the cognitive and emotional benefits older people derive from physical activity should be investigated in more detail. Finally, measures of brain activity that can be easily applied should be included as far as possible.
Trent A. Petrie
Although the specific prevalence rates may vary, eating disorders (ED) affect male and female athletes regardless of sport type and competitive level. Generally, rates of subclinical disorders are much higher than clinical ones, with the most frequent clinical classification being Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. Further, EDs occur not only among active athletes, but are also found in samples of retired athletes as well. Existing research on the prevalence of EDs in athletes, however, has been limited due to its reliance on out-of-date diagnostic criteria, sometimes small samples, and a focus on point prevalence to the exclusion of examining how rates might change over time. Central to prevalence research and clinical assessments is the ability to accurately assess EDs in athletes. Although structured clinical interviews represent the most valid approach, they are time consuming and not often used in determining prevalence. Researchers have relied on self-report measures instead. Such measures include those developed initially in nonathletes, but used to study athletes (e.g., Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnosis; Mintz, O’Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider, 1997), and those specifically for athletes (e.g., Athletic Milieu Direct Questionnaire; Nagel, Black, Leverenz, & Coster, 2000). Most of these measures, though having adequate psychometric properties, are based on diagnostic criteria that are no longer in use, so additional research that employs prevalence measures that reflect DSM-5 criteria is needed with athletes. Most ED research in sport has used samples of active athletes; few studies have considered how the transition out of sport might affect athletes’ perceptions of their bodies, their relationship to food, and their approaches to exercise and being physically active. Retirement from sport generally is considered to be a developmental stressor and thus may exacerbate ED symptoms and body image concerns in some athletes. Yet, for other athletes, retirement may represent a positive transition in which they emerge from a sport culture, focused on weight and appearance, to reclaim themselves and their bodies. Initial qualitative findings appear to support each hypothesis in part, though longitudinal quantitative studies that track athletes from active competition through retirement are needed to understand the changes athletes experience in relation to their bodies, food, and exercise, and when such changes are most likely to occur.
Sicong Liu and Gershon Tenenbaum
Research methods in sport and exercise psychology are embedded in the domain’s network of methodological assumptions, historical traditions, and research themes. Sport and exercise psychology is a unique domain that derives and integrates concepts and terminologies from both psychology and kinesiology domains. Thus, research methods used to study the main concerns and interests of sport and exercise psychology represent the domain’s intellectual properties.
The main methods used in the sport and exercise psychology domain are: (a) experimental, (b) psychometric, (c) multivariate correlational, (d) meta-analytic, (e) idiosyncratic, and (f) qualitative approach. Each of these research methods tends to fulfill a distinguishable research purpose in the domain and thus enables the generation of evidence that is not readily gleaned through other methods. Although the six research methods represent a sufficient diversity of available methods in sport and exercise psychology, they must be viewed as a starting point for researchers interested in the domain. Other research methods (e.g., case study, Bayesian inferences, and psychophysiological approach) exist and bear potential to advance the domain of sport and exercise psychology.
Sam Zizzi and Jana L. Fogaca
The process of learning to be a licensed and competent service provider in psychology typically involves supervision by a seasoned professional. Quality supervision is the cornerstone of effective, ethical practice in psychology. This process of supervision can take on many structures and involves a series of informal and formal meetings between the student and the professional. Sometimes, this supervision will involve co-therapy where the supervisor leads a session with the client while the student watches, or vice versa. The supervisor will direct students in how to prepare for and conduct their work and how to document their sessions and give them specific feedback to improve their skills. As students build competence, the supervisor may decide to give them more independence so they can make their own decisions about treatment plans and take a leadership role with clients. In exercise settings, this supervision process is a little different from sport settings. The focus of most exercise consultations with clients will be on changing health behavior instead of improving sport performance. Also, instead of spending time at practice fields or athletic events in a sport consultation, the students would be expected to spend time in fitness and wellness centers around clients with myriad health issues. These experiences are designed to help students feel autonomous in their decision-making, and to reduce their anxiety working with clients. This process may take a few months to a couple of years depending on the skills and training of the student before supervision.
Jeffrey Bond and Tony Morris
Australian sport psychology was effectively “launched” in conjunction with the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 1981. Prior to this date, sport psychology sat within the realm of a small number of research academics in tertiary institutions and many more unqualified practitioners with backgrounds in sport, hypnotherapy, medicine, and marketing and sales. The commencement of the legitimacy of the profession in the early 1980s correlated with the co-location of the AIS Sport Psychology Department with other sports medicine and sports science disciplines. From this rather humble but significant beginning, Australian sport psychology quickly became integrated into the training and competition plans of the vast majority of Australian Olympic sports and the developing professional football, tennis, golf, and cricket codes.
The rapid growth of the AIS and its team of qualified and experienced sport psychology practitioners, combined with international competition exposure, international conference presentations, reciprocal visits to international sports institutes, and Olympic training centers culminated in the inclusion of sport psychology within the auspices of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the accreditation of undergraduate and postgraduate tertiary programs in Australian universities. Applied sport psychology services are now a regular inclusion in most, if not all, Australian sports programs. An increasing emphasis on athlete and coach mental health in conjunction with the performance enhancement capability associated with sport psychology support has firmly entrenched the profession within the Australian sporting milieu.
Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal
The sociocultural aspects of sport injury and recovery include the broad landscape of social beliefs, climates, processes, cultures, institutions, and societies that surround the full chronological spectrum of sport injury outcomes, ranging from risk through to rehabilitation and retirement. A social ecological view of research on this topic demonstrates that sociocultural influences affect sport injury outcomes via interrelated sport systems extending from the intrasystem (i.e., within sports persons) through the microsystem (i.e., sport relationships), mesosystem (i.e., sport organizations), exosystem (i.e., sport governing bodies), and macrosystem (i.e., sport cultures). Affected sport injury outcomes include sport injury risks and responses during rehabilitation, return to play, and retirement from sport.
Some specific examples of sociocultural themes evident in research literature include personal conformity to the cultural expectation to play hurt, social conventions of behavior when sport injuries occur, institutional character or ethics when making return to play decisions, guidelines for the care of athletes prescribed by sport governing bodies, and the economic costs to society for sport injuries. Many elements of sport injury are affected by these sociocultural influences, such as the risk of injuries, rehabilitation processes, and career terminations. Continuing debates and discussions include advocacy for sport rule changes, bans on dangerous sports, institutional responsibility, and global sport safety efforts. These form the basis for recommendations about sociocultural interventions designed to reduce sport injury risks and optimize effective injury recoveries through social and cultural best practices.
Aidan Moran and John Toner
We are constantly bombarded by information. Therefore, during every waking moment of our lives, we face decisions about which stimuli to prioritize and which ones to ignore. To complicate matters, the information that clamors for our attention includes not only events that occur in the world around us but also experiences that originate in the subjective domain of our own thoughts and feelings. The end result is that our minds can consciously attend to only a fraction of the rich kaleidoscope of information and experiences available to us from our senses, thoughts, memories, and imagination. Attentional processes such as “concentration,” or the ability to focus on the task at hand while ignoring distractions, are crucial for success in sport and other domains of skilled performance. To illustrate, Venus Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, proclaimed that “for the players it is complete and pure focus. You don’t see anything or hear anything except the ball and what’s going on in your head.” For psychological scientists, concentration resembles a mental spotlight (like the head-mounted torch that miners and divers wear in dark environments) that illuminates targets located either in the external world around us or in the internal world of our subjective experiences. A major advantage of this spotlight metaphor is that it shows us that concentration is never “lost”—although it can be diverted to targets (whether in the external world or inside our heads) that are irrelevant to the task at hand. Research on attentional processes in sport and performance has been conducted in cognitive psychology (the study of how the mind works), cognitive sport psychology (the study of mental processes in athletes), and cognitive neuroscience (the study of how brain systems give rise to mental processes). From this research, advances have been made both in measuring attentional processes and in understanding their significance in sport and performance settings. For example, pupillometry, or the study of changes in pupil diameter as a function of cognitive processing, has been used as an objective index of attentional effort among skilled performers such as musicians and equestrian athletes. Next, research suggests that a heightened state of concentration (i.e., total absorption in the task at hand) is crucial to the genesis of “flow” states (i.e., rare and elusive moments when everything seems to come together for the performer) and optimal performance in athletes. More recently, studies have shown that brief mindfulness intervention programs, where people are trained to attend non-judgmentally to their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations, offer promise in the quest to enhance attentional skills in elite athletes. By contrast, anxiety has been shown to divert skilled performers’ attention to task-irrelevant information—sometimes triggering “choking” behavior or the sudden and significant deterioration of skilled performance. Finally, concentration strategies such as “trigger words” (i.e., the use of short, vivid, and positively phrased verbal reminders such as “this ball now”) are known to improve athletes’ ability to focus on a specific target or to execute skilled actions successfully.
Claudio Robazza and Montse C. Ruiz
Emotions are multifaceted subjective feelings that reflect expected, current, or past interactions with the environment. They involve sets of interrelated psychological processes, encompassing affective, cognitive, motivational, physiological, and expressive or behavioral components. Emotions play a fundamental role in human adaptation and performance by improving sensory intake, detection of relevant stimuli, readiness for behavioral responses, decision-making, memory, and interpersonal interactions. These beneficial effects enhance human health and performance in any endeavor, including sport, work, and the arts. However, emotions can also be maladaptive. Their beneficial or maladaptive effects depend on their content, time of occurrence, and intensity level. Emotional self-regulation refers to the processes by which individuals modify the type, quality, time course, and intensity of their emotions. Individuals attempt to regulate their emotions to attain beneficial effects, to deal with unfavorable circumstances, or both. Emotional self-regulation occurs when persons monitor the emotions they are experiencing and try to modify or maintain them. It can be automatic or effortful, conscious or unconscious. The process model of emotion regulation provides a framework for the classification of antecedent- and response-focused regulation processes. These processes are categorized according to the point at which they have their primary impact in the emotion generative process: situation selection (e.g., confrontation and avoidance), situation modification (e.g., direct situation modification, support-seeking, and conflict resolution), attentional deployment (e.g., distraction, concentration, and mindfulness), cognitive change (e.g., self-efficacy appraisals, challenge/threat appraisals, positive reappraisal, and acceptance), and response modulation (e.g., regulation of experience, arousal regulation, and expressive suppression). In addition to the process model of emotion regulation, other prominent approaches provide useful insights to the study of adaptation and self-regulation for performance enhancement. These include the strength model of self-control, the dual-process theories, the biopsychosocial model, the attentional control theory, and the individual zones of optimal functioning model. Based on the latter model, emotion-centered and action-centered interrelated strategies have been proposed for self-regulation in sport. Within this framework, performers identify, regulate, and optimize their functional and dysfunctional emotions and their most relevant components of functional performance patterns.
There is no doubt that exercise, a vital health-promoting activity, regardless of health status, produces numerous well-established physical, functional, and mental health benefits. Many people, however, do not adhere to medical recommendations to exercise consistently, especially if they have chronic illnesses. Put forth to explain this conundrum are numerous potential explanatory factors. Among these are mental health correlates such as anxiety, fear, fatigue, pain, motivation, and depression, as well as various self-efficacy perceptions related to exercise behaviors, which may be important factors to identify and intervene upon in the context of promoting adherence to physical activity recommendations along with efforts to reduce the cumulative health and economic burden of exercise non-adherence among the chronically ill and those at risk for chronic illnesses.