Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

The Effects of Goal Orientation and Perceived Competence on Cognitive Interference during Tennis and Snooker Performance

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

The Effects of Goal Orientation and Perceived Competence on Cognitive Interference during Tennis and Snooker Performance

Article excerpt

The main purpose of this study was to explore the effects of goal orientation and perceived competence on cognitive interference during sport performance. The sample consisted of 182 snooker and tennis players. The Thought Occurrence Questionnaire (TOQ) was used to measure cognitive interference. The Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ) was used to assess athletes' goal orientation, while perceptions of competence were evaluated by a three-item scale. Multiple Group Path Analysis was conducted to test the structure of the relationship between the constructs. Results revealed that while task orientation was negatively associated with 'thoughts of escape', irrespective of levels of perceived competence, the relationship between ego orientation and 'thoughts of escape' was moderated by perceived competence. congruent with theoretical predictions, in the low perceived competence group there was a positive relationship between ego orientation and 'thoughts of escape', while in the high competenc e group the association was not significant.

In sport psychology, and in achievement motivation in particular, goal orientation theory (Nicholls 1984, 1989) has attracted a remarkable amount of attention in recent years. However, despite its popularity, only a limited amount of research has examined relationships between goals and aspects of sport performance. Within this literature sport anxiety has been the main focus of attention (e.g. Gould, Ecklund, Petlichkoff, Petersen and Bump, 1991; Hall and Kerr, 1997; Martin and Gill, 1991; Swain and Jones, 1992; Vealey and Campbell, 1988).

In sport it is common hearing athletes attributing their success to their level and quality of concentration, or their failure to lack of concentration. Furthermore, there are many times when athletes admit that thoughts not connected to the task interfere with what should be their only focus, that is personal performance. Though an important aspect of performance, cognitive interference has been largely ignored in sport psychology research. In contrast, a great deal of research focusing on cognitive interference has been conducted in educational settings. Here, cognitive interference has been described as task irrelevant, self-preoccupied thinking including components of worry over performance (Sarason, Sarason and Pierce, 1990). This paper explores whether goal orientation is associated with thought occurrence during sport performance.

Cognitive Interference

Educational research has taken place on the antecedents and the effects of cognitive interference. Originally, it was suggested that cognitive interference is a result of test anxiety (Deffenbacher and Deitz 1978; Wine 1971), and a number of studies were conducted to test this relationship. Sarason and Stoops (1978), applying a task presented as an intelligence test, found that high test anxious individuals displayed higher levels of cognitive interference than those low in test anxiety. In particular, they reported that high test anxious individuals were preoccupied during the task by how poorly they were doing, how other people were coping, and what the examiner would think of them. Zats and Chassin (1983) reported that during an anagram task high test anxious children experienced qualitatively more negative and task-irrelevant thoughts than moderate and low anxious children, while in similar tasks others have found that high levels of test anxiety are associated with more frequent negative and interfering cognitions during performance (Bruch, Juster and Kaflowitz, 1983; Deffenbacher and Hazaleus, 1985; Gallassi, Frierson and Sharer, 1981).

However, because not all differences in cognitive interference that participants were experiencing could be attributed to test anxiety, researchers tried to identify other factors that might stimulate, or interact with, test anxiety in generating interfering thoughts. It was revealed that cognitive interference was related to levels of study skills (Culler and Holahan, 1980; Paulman and Kennelly, 1984), perceived ability (Arkin, Detchon and Maruyama, 1982), previous performance, perceived preparation, grade expectation, examination importance (Hunsley, 1987), task difficulty (Arkin et al. …

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