Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perceived Effects of Emotion Intensity on Athletic Performance: A Contingency-Based Individualized Approach

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Perceived Effects of Emotion Intensity on Athletic Performance: A Contingency-Based Individualized Approach

Article excerpt

This study, based on the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning model, examined the perceived effect of idiosyncratic emotions and bodily symptoms on athletic performance along the entire emotion-intensity range. The participants were 35 elite Italian athletes, 16 women and 19 men, competing in either figure skating or gymnastics. Idiosyncratic emotional descriptors were rated on Borg's CR-10 scale to estimate the perceived impact on performance and hedonic tone for each level of emotion-intensity range. The findings revealed a large interindividual variability in the content of emotions as well as in the shape of the curves representing the intensity-impact contingencies. At the group level, the emotion-performance link was positive linear for optimal-pleasant emotions, bell-shaped for optimal-unpleasant emotions, and negative linear for both dysfunctional-unpleasant and dysfunctional-pleasant emotions. The relationship between emotional and bodily symptom intensities was positive linear, Implications of the findings for estimating total functional effects and individualized interventions are suggested.

Key words, bodily symptoms, hedonic tone, idiosyncratic emotions, IZOF model


In sport psychology, there is a growing interest in the study of emotion-performance relationships within several theoretical frameworks, such as the multidimensional theory of anxiety (Martens, Vealey, & Burton, 1990), the catastrophe model (Hardy, 1990), the directional interpretation of anxiety (Jones & Swain, 1995), and the reversal theory (Kerr, 1997). The main emphasis of numerous studies has been on estimating the optimal intensity of precompetition emotions and predicting athletic performance. These group-oriented studies were usually limited to investigating the implied (facilitating or debilitating) impact of anxiety on athletic performance. The Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) psychobiosocial model, an individualized alternative, is a leading and much researched perspective in sport psychology. It was developed by Hanin (1997a, 2000) to describe, predict, explain, and control athletes' optimal and dysfunctional experiences related to their successful and unsuccessful performances. Experience here is defined as the totality of characteristics, both past and present, which makes up the particular quality of a person's performance. Moreover, three aspects of experience are distinguished: situational experience (states), relatively stable patterns of experience, and meta-experience (knowledge and attitudes about experiences; Hanin, 2003, 2004).

Basic Tenets of the IZOF Model

Initially used to study optimal levels of precompetition anxiety of elite athletes (Hanin, 1980, 1986, 1989), the IZOF model was later extended to assess positive (pleasant) and negative (unpleasant) emotions that help or harm performance. In its current form, the IZOF model posits five basic dimensions accounting for a broad range of psychobiosocial states related to performance (Hanin, 2000, 2003; Hanin & Stambulova, 2002). The dimensions of form, content, and intensity are purported to represent the structure of situational subjective experiences, while time and context dimensions represent the dynamics of subjective experiences.

The dimension form is construed to comprehensively encompass the individual's athletic states, including cognitive, emotional, motivational, bodily, kinesthetic (motor), performance (operational), and communicative components. These interrelated modalities are meant to provide a relatively complete description of a performance state. In the content dimension, emotions are categorized by the interaction of the hedonic tone (pleasant or unpleasant) and the functional impact on performance (helpful or harmful). Therefore, emotions are classified within four content categories: optimal-pleasant, optimal-unpleasant, dysfunctional-unpleasant, and dysfunctional-pleasant. …

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