Intra-Individual Variability in State Anxiety and Self-Confidence in Elite Golfers

Article excerpt

Precompetition anxiety levels are assumed to moderate athletic performance. Unfortunately, cross-sectional and nomothetic research designs have often shown non-significant findings; intra-individual variability may be a contributing factor. The extent of variability in precompetition anxiety and self-confidence responses as related to golf performance and trait measures were therefore examined using an idiographic approach. Individual patterns of variability were found for Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety and Self-Confidence scores yielded prior to the games played. Variability in Somatic Anxiety was significantly related to variability in golf performance. Players low in anxiety variability scored significantly higher on Private Self-Consciousness. The findings suggest the influence of anxiety and self-confidence on performance may be better understood when trait characteristics of the individual are also considered.


Sport psychology researchers have assumed that an individual's anxiety level experienced immediately before a competition (i.e., state anxiety) has a moderating effect on subsequent athletic performance (cf. Martens, 1971). Early research suggested the relation between anxiety and sport performance is best described by an inverted-U function (Landers & Boutcher, 2001; Sonstroem & Bernardo, 1982). Reviews of both general and sport anxiety related literature have, however, failed to find support for the inverted-U hypothesis (Gould & Krane, 1992; Gould & Udry, 1994; Hardy, 1990; Jones, 1995; Naatanen, 1973; Neiss, 1988).

One of the primary criticisms of the inverted-U hypothesis and other traditional models is they do not account for individual differences in anxiety responses often observed in athletes (Fazey & Hardy, 1988; Jones, 1995; Raglin, 1992). This lack of efficacy has led to the development of sport specific explanations of anxiety and athletic performance. Theoretical approaches such as Hardy's Catastrophe Model (1990, 1996), Hanin's Individualized Zones of Optimal Functioning Model (IZOF, 1978, 1997), and Kerr's Reversal theory (1990, 1997) all explicitly incorporate the concept of individual differences. Although these models are somewhat different conceptually, each indicates that the optimal level of anxiety for performance can vary considerably across athletes.

While mounting evidence indicates athletes in many sports vary significantly in the level of anxiety that benefits performance (Raglin & Hanin, 2000; Turner & Raglin, 1996), the reasons for this variability remain poorly understood. Indeed, a primary criticism of the IZOF model is that it provides no explanation for why comparably skilled athletes competing in the same sport would vary in their precompetition anxiety responses (Gould & Tuffey, 1996). A related issue that has received little attention is intra-individual variability of precompetition anxiety responses (Gould, Greenleaf, & Krane, 2002). Not only do athletes differ from one another in the level of anxiety experienced before a given competition, they also are likely to exhibit differences in the range of variability of precompetition anxiety across competitions. Some athletes may be consistent in precompetition anxiety values (e.g., either all low, medium, or high) while others may differ considerably from competition to competition (Raglin & Hanin, 2000). In cases where the variation in anxiety intensity from competition to competition is narrow, it is likely that the net impact of anxiety on performance would be minimized, whereas anxiety is likely to be a more influential factor in athletes displaying wide variability in anxiety. Unfortunately, research to date has been largely limited to one or two assessments of precompetition anxiety and there has been an absence of work in which precompetition states are assessed repeatedly throughout an entire competitive season, despite the call for such research (e. …