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The Paralympics are the pinnacle of sporting competition for athletes with physical and intellectual impairments. Most Paralympians have intellectual or sensory (e.g., visual) or physical (e.g., amputation, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy) impairments. The Paralympics have become increasingly competitive and larger over the years as they have grown from two countries and 150 athletes in 1952 to 150 countries and about 4,000 athletes in 2012. In the last 10 to 20 years there has been significant interest and growth in the psychology of Paralympic athletes. Researchers are slowly starting to support the value of psychological skills training. Typically, a humanistic personal developmental model that equally values athletes’ well-being and their athletic performance has been advocated. Understanding the various influences on performance and well-being specifically for Paralympians is particularly important given the stress of the Paralympic experience. Research on Paralympians has focused on foundational qualities, which are psychological factors, such as feelings of control, self-awareness, self-esteem, and personality factors. Often these foundation qualities are framed as having an indirect influence on performance through factors like training quality and lifestyle choices (e.g., alcohol consumption).
In additional to foundational qualities, a second area of research targets the psychological methods that are used to develop mental skills and qualities. For instance, competition plans, positive self-talk, and goal setting are all methods used to enhance positive thoughts (e.g., confidence) and reduce negative affect (e.g., anxiety). A third area of focus has to do with facilitative and debilitative factors that influence Paralympic performance. For instance, many Paralympians have to manage chronic pain and avoid overtraining and injury. Many Paralympians have difficulty training, as sport facilities are not always accessible for training. Travel to competition sites, especially involving air travel (with effects such as jet lag), is particularly challenging and can negatively influence performance. Sleeping in the Paralympic village can also be difficult, with many athletes reporting inferior sleep quality. Finally, a small body of research has examined the challenges Paralympians face when retiring from sport.
Yeshayahu Hutzler and Joelle Almosni
Persons with intellectual disability (ID) exhibit reduced levels of participation in recreational and habitual physical activity, which leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and resulting medical and psychosocial burdens. In spite of their cognitive limitations, persons with ID are able to benefit from utilization of learner-centered approaches to physical activity participation. Several theoretical models, including social cognitive theory (SCT), self-determination theory (SDT), and constructivism, are helpful for explaining the benefits of internalizing learning within the framework of physical activity in persons with ID. Peer modeling, decision-making for leisure (DML), divergent production style (DPS), and the cycle of internalization (CIL) are practical teaching models focusing on internalizing learning experiences and developing an intrinsic motivation for action in the physical domain. These models have been successfully practiced in persons with ID, and their feasibility and effectiveness was established particularly for developing autonomy and social relatedness. In this article the theoretical constructs and the research literature pertaining to SCT, DML, DPS and CIL is reviewed, enabling to synthesize perspectives on how to integrate these models within residential, vocational or community based physical activity programs for persons with ID. Utilizing such models and practices may facilitate persons with ID developing an internalized motivational approach to participation in physical activity and therefore be beneficial for reducing risk factors, keeping fit and enhance quality of life. Staff members in community residences and homes for persons with ID as well as in day-care and vocational centers, should be encouraged to utilize such models as an alternative to the widely used directive teaching model following the behaviorist approach.
Bradley W. Young, Bettina Callary, and Scott Rathwell
Paralleling the graying of the baby boomer generation, there has been remarkable growth in the number of Masters athletes (adult sport participants generally 35+ years old) and Seniors athletes (55+) worldwide. The phenomenon of the aging or older athlete is an opportunity to study the psychological conditions and considerations that distinguish older sportspersons from their younger counterparts. Although the vast majority of sport psychology research focuses on youth and adolescents or young adults in a high-performance context, a critical mass of literature on middle-aged and older athletes has emerged. Much research has aimed to understand the sport motivation of older adults; this work has evolved from early descriptive works to increasingly theoretically grounded and analytically advanced efforts that seek to better understand older athletes’ sport commitment and their long-term goal striving behaviors. Another theme of inquiry relates to the nature of adult athletes’ social motivations and the role of social identity in explaining immersion into sport. Research has examined various social influences on older athletes, and specifically how different social agents and social norms come to bear on older athletes’ sport participation. Much work has interrogated how social support facilitates older sport participation as well as the unique negotiations that older adults make with significant others to sustain their experience. Another research theme has sought to determine the various psychosocial benefits of adult sport, cataloguing benefits related to personal growth, age-related adaptation, and successful aging outcomes. Although the discourse on adult sport has been overly positive, several contributions have problematized aspects of adult sport, challenged the assertion that adult athletes are models that many others could follow, and have further suggested that narratives of Masters athletes may reinforce ageist stigma.
Katherine A. Tamminen and Courtney Braun
Adolescent athletes face increasing opportunities for competition at higher levels, as well as increasing demands on their time, pressure from parents and coaches, and conflicts with teammates and opponents, all during a time when adolescents are exploring different aspects of their identity and sense of self. Sport is a context for adolescent development, and despite the wide array of positive benefits that have been associated with sport participation during adolescence and into adulthood, it is also acknowledged that sport participation does not automatically confer benefits to adolescent athletes, and it may lead to potentially negative experiences and poor psychosocial outcomes.
Key concerns for researchers and practitioners working with adolescent athletes include managing various stressors and the development of adaptive coping strategies, the risk of experiencing sport burnout, bullying, and the potential for withdrawing or dropping out of sport. Despite these concerns, a large body of research among adolescent athletes provides evidence that athletes’ performance and positive psychosocial development may be enhanced among adolescent athletes by intentionally structuring the sport environment to promote positive outcomes; in particular, coaches, parents, and peers play an important role in shaping the sport experiences of adolescent athletes. Furthermore, the psychosocial characteristics and competencies associated with sport participation may not automatically transfer to other areas of adolescents’ lives unless they are intentionally and systematically structured to do so. It is important for coaches, parents, and sport administrators who are involved in developing and delivering programs for adolescent athletes to be aware of some of the psychosocial concerns that are relevant for this population, and to consider intentionally structuring sport programs to promote high levels of achievement as well as healthy psychological and social development among young athletes.
Krista J. Munroe-Chandler and Michelle D. Guerrero
Imagery, which can be used by anyone, is appealing to performers because it is executed individually and can be performed at anytime and anywhere. The breadth of the application of imagery is far reaching. Briefly, imagery is creating or recreating experiences in one’s mind. From the early theories of imagery (e.g., psychoneuromuscular) to the more recent imagery models (e.g., PETTLEP), understanding the way in which imagery works is essential to furthering our knowledge and developing strong research and intervention programs aimed at enhanced performance. The measurement of imagery ability and frequency provides a way of monitoring the progression of imagery use and imagery ability. Despite the individual differences known to impact imagery use (e.g., type of task, imagery perspective, imagery speed), imagery remains a key psychological skill integral to a performer’s success.
The ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands is an inherent aspect of performance sport. At the highest level of competition, phenomenal levels of psychological resilience are necessary to attain and sustain success. Although various biopsychosocial factors contribute to the development of this resilience, an important differentiating factor in the emergence of the world’s best athletes is an ability to benefit in some way from the adversity they encounter, to the extent that they psychosocially grow and develop their resilience beyond their pre-trauma functioning, resulting in superior performance. These interrelated experiences of adversity, growth, and resilience involve ongoing complex interactions of numerous personal and situational factors. To briefly elaborate, following adversity-related trauma, athletes go through a “transitional process” whereby growth is facilitated through a combination of internal and external processes. For the world’s best athletes, changes to their motivation and personality appear to be particularly salient psychological aspects of adversarial growth. With regard to the development of resilience, the combined influence of psychological (i.e., personality, motivation, confidence, focus, support) and environmental (i.e., challenge, support) factors underpin athletes’ enhanced ability to withstand or adapt to environmental demands. Although there are a variety of potential beneficial outcomes of these experiences, it appears that there may also be some darker aspects to the world’s best athletes’ development and performance that have less desirable effects on their mental health and relationships. The integrative synthesis of psychological resilience and adversarial growth offers one of the most exciting and insightful avenues for future research in sport and performance.
Jiaying Zhao and Brandon M. Tomm
Scarcity is the condition of having insufficient resources to cope with demands. This condition presents significant challenges to the human cognitive system. For example, having limited financial resources requires the meticulous calculation of expenses with respect to a budget. Likewise, having limited time requires the stringent management of schedules with respect to a deadline. As such, scarcity consumes cognitive resources such as attention, working memory, and executive control and elicits a range of systematic and even counter-productive cognitive and behavioral responses as a result. Specifically, scarcity induces an attentional focus on the problem at hand, which facilitates performance by enhancing cognitive processing of information relevant to the problem, increasing the efficiency of resource use, and stabilizing the perception of value. Such prioritization of the problem at hand may seem advantageous, but it can produce undesirable consequences. For example, scarcity causes myopic and impulsive behavior, prioritizing short-term gains over long-term gains. Ironically, scarcity can also result in a failure to notice beneficial information in the environment that alleviates the condition of scarcity. More detrimentally, scarcity directly impairs cognitive function, which can lead to suboptimal decisions and choices that exacerbate the condition of scarcity. Thus, scarcity means not only a shortage of physical resources (e.g., money or time) but also a deficit of cognitive resources (e.g., attention, executive control). The cognitive deficits under scarcity are particularly problematic because they impair performance and lead to counter-productive behaviors that deepen the cycle of scarcity. In addition, people under financial scarcity suffer from stigmas and stereotypes associated with poverty. These social perceptions of poverty further burden the mind by consuming cognitive resources, weakening performance in the poor. Understanding the cognitive and behavioral responses to scarcity provides new insights into why the poor remain poor, identifying the psychological causes of scarcity, and illuminating potential interventions to stop the cycle of scarcity. These insights have important implications for the design and the implementation of policies and services targeting the populations under scarcity.
Britton W. Brewer
In addition to the disruptive impact of sport injury on physical functioning, injury can have psychological effects on athletes. Consistent with contemporary models of psychological response to sport injury, aspects of psychological functioning that can be affected by sport injury include pain, cognition, emotion, and behavior. Part of the fabric of sport and ubiquitous even among “healthy” athletes, pain is a common consequence of sport injury. Postinjury pain is typically of the acute variety and can be exacerbated, at least temporarily, by surgery and some rehabilitation activities. Cognitive responses to sport injury include appraising the implications of the injury for one’s well-being and ability to manage the injury, making attributions for injury occurrence, using cognitive coping strategies, perceiving benefits of injury, and experiencing intrusive injury-related thoughts and images, increased perception of injury risk, reduced self-esteem and self-confidence, and diminished neurocognitive performance. Emotional responses to sport injury tend to progress from a preponderance of negative emotions (e.g., anger, confusion, depression, disappointment, fear, frustration) shortly after injury occurrence to a more positive emotional profile over the course of rehabilitation. A wide variety of personal and situational factors have been found to predict postinjury emotions. In terms of postinjury behavior, athletes have reported initiating coping strategies such as living their lives as normally as possible, distracting themselves, seeking social support, isolating themselves from others, learning about their injuries, adhering to the rehabilitation program, pursuing interests outside sport, consuming alcohol, taking recreational and/or performance-enhancing substances, and, in rare cases, attempting suicide. Psychological readiness to return to sport after injury is an emerging concept that cuts across cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to sport injury.
With the demands of the United States Military constantly evolving, it is necessary to think outside of the common battlefield to find a competitive advantage. Aside from tactical and technical advancement in military science and weaponry, the psychological component of warfare and readiness has been given more attention and resources in recent years. While the primary goal of these programs, which are mainly with the US Army and Navy, is to psychologically train soldiers for optimal performance and readiness, the mental health and psychological well-being upon return from deployment is also a top priority. These programs have grown in scope and size over the past 20 years, and with no end in sight of U.S. military responsibilities, the psychological training platforms continue to be a critical component of global military readiness.
Idan Shalev and Waylon J. Hastings
Stress is a multistage process during which an organism perceives, interprets, and responds to threatening environmental stimuli. Physiological activity in the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems mediates the biological stress response. Although the stress response is adaptive in the short term, exposure to severe or chronic stressors dysregulates these biological systems, promoting maladaptive physiology and an accelerated aging phenotype, including aging on the cellular level. Two structures implicated in this process of stress and cellular aging are telomeres, whose length progressively decreases with age, and mitochondria, whose respiratory activity becomes increasingly inefficient with advanced age. Stress in its various forms is suggested to influence the maintenance and stability of these structures throughout life. Elucidating the interrelated connection between telomeres and mitochondria and how different types of stressors are influencing these structures to drive the aging process is of great interest. A better understanding of this subject can inform clinical treatments and intervention efforts to reduce (or even reverse) the damaging effects of stress on the aging process.
Simona C. Kaplan, Michaela B. Swee, and Richard G. Heimberg
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by fear of being negatively evaluated by others in social situations. Multiple psychological interventions have been developed to treat SAD. The most widely studied of these interventions stem from cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based, interpersonal, and psychodynamic conceptualizations of SAD. In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), patients learn to identify and question maladaptive thoughts and engage in exposures to feared situations to test the accuracy of biased beliefs. Mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to treating SAD focus on mindful awareness and acceptance of distressing internal experiences (i.e., psychological and physiological symptoms) with the ultimate goal of behavior change and living a meaningful life based on identified values. Interpersonal psychotherapy links SAD to interpersonal problem areas and aims to reduce symptoms by targeting interpersonal difficulties. Psychodynamic psychotherapy for SAD focuses on identifying unresolved conflicts that lead to SAD symptoms, fostering insight and expressiveness, and forming a secure helping alliance.
Generally, CBT is the most well-studied of the psychological treatments for SAD, and research demonstrates greater reductions in social anxiety than pill placebo and waitlist controls. Results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that mindfulness—and acceptance-based therapies may be as efficacious as CBT, although the body of research remains small; four of five RCTs comparing these approaches to CBT found no differences. RCTs comparing CBT to IPT suggest that CBT is the more efficacious treatment. Two RCTs comparing CBT to psychodynamic psychotherapy suggest that psychodynamic psychotherapy may have efficacy similar to CBT, but that it takes longer to achieve similar outcomes. RCTs examining CBT and pharmacotherapy suggest that the medications phenelzine and clonazepam are as efficacious as CBT for treating SAD and are faster acting, but that patients receiving these medications may be more likely to relapse after treatment is discontinued than patients who received CBT. Research generally does not indicate added benefit of combining psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy above each monotherapy alone, although this body of research is quite variable. Effectiveness studies indicate that CBT is equally effective in community clinics and controlled research trials, but studies of this nature are lacking for other psychological approaches.
Michael P. Leiter
Engagement has continued to develop as a positive construct in organizational psychology. Initially defined as employees’ identification with their work, work engagement became understood as a configuration of vigor, dedication, and absorption that motivates exceptional work performance. Although generally viewed as a positive construct, engagement may have a dark side in giving work excessive importance in employees’ lives. There has been some debate regarding the specific qualities that define engagement and the extent to which engagement is an enduring trait in contrast to a varying response to situational constraints and opportunities. The concerns are reflected in the measures of engagement, the most widely used is the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). The Job Demands/Resources Model has structured much of the research work on engagement in recent years, leading to initiatives to enhance engagement by improving the quality and variety of resources available to employees at work. Within this domain, job crafting appears to provide a means through which individuals or groups may broaden their opportunities to participate in engaging activities while reducing the range of drudgery inherent in their work.
Anthony C. Hackney and Eser Ağgön
Stress is encountered by every individual on a daily basis. Such encounters can be of a negative (distress) or a positive (eustress) nature. Excessive and chronic distress exposure is associated with numerous health problems affecting both physiological and psychological components of a person’s well-being. One mediating aspect of these occurrences is the responses of the neuroendocrine system with the body. Physical activity (i.e., exercise) produces large and dramatic changes in the neuroendocrine system as it serves as a “stressor” to the system. To this end, though, chronic engagement in physical activity leads to exercise training-induced adaptations within the neuroendocrine system that potentiate an individual’s ability to deal with distressful experiences and exposures. Therefore, becoming more physically fit and exercise trained is one potential adjunctive therapy available for clinicians to recommend in the treatment of health problems associated with chronic exposure to distress.
Gershon Tenenbaum and Edson Filho
Trustworthy measurement is essential to make inferences about people and events, as well as to make scientific inquiries and comprehend human behaviors. Measurement is used for validating and building theories, substantiating research endeavors, contributing to science, and supporting a variety of applications. Sport and exercise psychology is a theoretical and practical domain derived from two domains: psychology and kinesiology. As such, the measurement methods used by scientists and practitioners relate to the acquisition of motor skills (i.e., genetics and environment-deliberate practice), physiological measures (e.g., heart rate pulse, heart rate variability, breathing amplitude and frequency, galvanic skin response, and electrocardiogram), and psychological measures including introspective instruments in the form of questionnaires, interviews, and observations.
Sport and exercise psychology entails the measurement of motor performance (e.g., time-trials, one repetition maximum tests), cognitive development (e.g., knowledge base and structure, deliberate practice, perception-cognition, attention, memory), social aspects (e.g., team dynamics, cohesion, leadership, shared mental models, coach-performer interaction), the self (e.g., self-esteem, self-concept, physical self), affective and emotional states (e.g., mood, burnout), and psychological skills (e.g. imagery, goal-setting, relaxation, emotion regulation, stress management, self-talk, relaxation, and pre-performance routine). Sport and exercise psychologists are also interested in measuring the affective domain (e.g., quality of life, affect/emotions, perceived effort), psychopathological states (e.g., anxiety, depression), cognitive domain (e.g., executive functioning, information processing, decision making, attention, academic achievements, cognition and aging), social-cognitive concepts (e.g., self-efficacy, self-control, motivation), and biochemical markers of human functioning (e.g., genetic factors, hormonal changes). The emergence of neuroscientific methods have ushered in new methodological tools (e.g., electroencephalogram; fMRI) to assess central markers (brain systems) linked to performance, learning, and well-being in sport and exercise settings. Altogether, the measures in the sport and exercise domain are used to establish linkages among the emotional, cognitive, and motor systems.
Maximilian Pelka and Michael Kellmann
The sport and performance environment is highly demanding for its actors. Therefore, recovery from work and sports requires special attention. Without adequate recovery, optimal performance is not attainable. It depends, however, on the individual what adequate recovery actually is. An extremely demanding event for someone may not be as demanding for someone else. Every individual perceives his or her environment differently and therefore has to choose his or her response or prevention strategy accordingly. Monitoring one’s recovery-stress states might be a promising starting point to establish individual baselines and further regulate training or work intensities. Relaxation in terms of implementing systematic relaxation techniques seems to be an adequate approach. These techniques can be divided into muscle-to-mind and mind-to-muscle techniques focusing either on the training of one’s sensitivity to muscle tension or on the cognitive processes involved in relaxation. Whether the recovery process is finally successful depends on if the chosen methods fit the purpose of recovery (i.e., response to cognitive or physical demands), the setting/circumstance (i.e., time and place), and how comfortable one feels with the specific recovery strategy.
Religion, spirituality, and sport is an increasingly popular discipline in the sport psychology framework, often based on one’s own faith and religious beliefs. The spiritual dimension of the human experience first focused on religious and mystic experiences; later, various other states of mind, such as peak experiences, flow, and “being in the zone,” were discussed using the framework of humanistic and positive psychology, including in the context of sports. Human movement activities were part of religious cults and rites in ancient societies, for example in the Greek Olympic Games. Thanks to this tradition, the father of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, wrote about religio athletae when discussing the transcendent aspects of modern sport. Contemporary sport is not connected to religion in such a direct way, however. The modern athlete normally follows his or her own religious tradition in a private manner. This does not mean, however, there is no connection between religion and sport. On the contrary, religious and quasi-religious behavior is commonly found in the sport environment, including superstitious rituals of athletes and fans, prayer in sporting areas, and application of non-Christian practices in sports psychology consulting. Furthermore, deeper values and meanings can be attributed to sport activities as a kind of nonreligious spirituality. It is possible to observe an increasing interest in the religious and spiritual aspects of sports in the new millennium, which can be seen in the establishing of specific professions like sport psychologists or chaplains, as well as university centers for the study of religion and spirituality in sport.
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.
Residues of (Post-)Kantian Philosophy in Early Scientific Psychology and Hermann von Helmholtz’s Idealism
Liesbet de Kock
German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) is widely acknowledged as one of the leading intellectuals and scientists of his time. Originally trained as a physiologist, Helmholtz contributed substantially to the fields of mathematics, physics, acoustics, ophthalmology, and the emerging science of psychology, amongst others. Not only did Helmholtz’s research interests cover a vast array of different topics, he furthermore paired his scientific endeavors with a continuous philosophical reflection upon the nature of science and knowledge, and of human cognition in general. Helmholtz’s philosophical interests were especially salient in his theory of perception, in which he attempted to reconcile his empirical viewpoint with insights derived from the idealist philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. This dovetailing between empiricism and (transcendental) idealism has fascinated philosophers ever since the publication of Helmholtz’s work. Although Helmholtz famously rejected Kant’s theory of space, he considered his own theory of perception as a further elaboration and empirical confirmation of Kant’s and (to a lesser degree of) Fichte’s philosophical systems. Notwithstanding the abiding philosophical interest in the nature and extent of Helmholtz’s allegiance to German Idealism, the philosophical dimension of his work has not received the attention it deserves in the historiography of psychology. Revisiting Helmholtz’s intellectual relation to transcendental idealism, however, could not only help correct and enrich simplified accounts of his psychological and epistemological position, it furthermore provides a highly interesting illustration of the hitherto poorly understood relation between (neo-)Kantianism and the dawn of scientific psychology in 19th-century Germany.
Nancy A. Pachana, Nicola W. Burton, Deirdre McLaughlin, and Colin A. Depp
Research on healthy aging has begun to address mental health issues in later life. Despite the debates about exactly what constitutes healthy aging and which are the most useful or valid determinants of this construct to study, there is substantial evidence for several determinants of successful aging, including physical activity, cognitive stimulation, and social networks. All three of these determinants support mental health, including cognition, in later life. Resilience is another construct that plays an important role in healthy aging, but it has not received as much research attention at the end of life as in earlier periods. Factors that reduce the risk of mental distress or promote resilience with respect to mental health in the face of challenges in later life remain fruitful areas for further investigations.
Mo Wang and Valeria Alterman
Retirement, defined as an individual’s exit from the workforce, is usually accompanied by a behavioral withdrawal from work. While retirement was seen as a crisis in the past, it now stands as an opportunity for individuals to engage in different types of work (e.g., bridge employment), and to dedicate more time in their community with friends and family. Cross-national studies have been conducted to clarify the impact of preparedness on the temporal process of retirement: decisions, transition, and adjustment to retirement. Nevertheless, societies are constantly changing and future research, with the frameworks discussed in this chapter in mind, can continue investigating the concepts of retirement to help individuals prepare better.