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Title: An examination of debilitative and facilitative competitive anxiety
Authors: Hanton, Sheldon M.
Issue Date: 1996
Publisher: © S.M. Hanton
Abstract: This thesis conducted a detailed examination of debilitative and facilitative dimensions of competitive state anxiety. Competitive anxiety was assessed using the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2) which was modified to measure not only the 'intensity' (level) but also 'direction' (facilitative/debilitative) of cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and self-confidence. A trait version of the questionnaire was also used. Three different research methodologies were employed in this thesis. The first two studies adopted a quantitative research methodology, Study 3 incorporated qualitative techniques and the final investigation addressed the research question via a single-subject design study. The first study investigated intensity and direction dimensions of state anxiety as a function of skill level in a sample of elite and non-elite swimmers. The results revealed that while no differences were evident between the groups on the intensity of cognitive and somatic anxiety, the elite group reported more facilitative interpretations of these symptoms than the non-elite group. Self-confidence was also higher in the elite group. The results suggested elite performers do not differ from nonelite performers on the level of anxiety they experience, but they do have a more positive interpretation of these symptoms in terms of consequence for performance. The second study examined the predictions of a control process model of anxiety proposed by Jones (1995a). Specifically, the study examined the directional perceptions of anxiety as a function of goal attainment expectations. Results showed that swimmers with favourable expectancies of their ability to achieve their goals reported no differences in intensity levels to the swimmers with negative or uncertain expectancies of goal achievement. However, more facilitative interpretations of pre-race symptoms were reported by the positive goal expectancy group. These findings highlighted important applied implications for achieving appropriate pre-performance states via setting appropriate goals that are within the control of the performer. Study three addressed how elite performers have acquired the ability to interpret their anxiety symptoms as being facilitative towards upcoming performance. Qualitative interview techniques and inductive content analysis revealed that the performers did experience negative cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms when they first started competing. However, by appropriate education and natural learning experiences, the performers became aware that the nerves they experienced could be positive towards the upcoming race. Furthermore, the swimmers developed, and now follow, detailed pre-competition and pre-race routines to maintain this facilitative interpretation. The findings generated important practical implications for attempting to restructure negative interpretations of anxiety symptoms. The final study examined the effects of a multimodal intervention programme on performers debilitated by their anxiety symptoms, via a staggered multiple-baseline single-subject design over a series of ten competitive races. Following the intervention, the results showed that although intensity levels remained stable, the three performers receiving the intervention reported more facilitative interpretations of both cognitive and somatic anxiety. Self-confidence also increased following the intervention treatment. These findings demonstrated that information generated by elite performers can be transferred successfully in ecologically valid sport environments. The programme of research conducted in this thesis provides evidence that the conventional notion of anxiety as negative towards performance can be questioned and reconceptualised to include positive consequences for performance. The results highlight the importance of future research into other emotions that may have been formerly labelled as anxiety, but which denote a different emotional state altogether.
Description: Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/7221
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)

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