The Effects of Video and Cognitive Imagery on Throwing Performance of Baseball Pitchers: A Single Subject Design

By Nelson, Jamie; Czech, Daniel R. et al. | The Sport Journal, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Video and Cognitive Imagery on Throwing Performance of Baseball Pitchers: A Single Subject Design


Nelson, Jamie, Czech, Daniel R., Joyner, A. Barry, Munkasy, Barry, Lachowetz, Tony, The Sport Journal


INTRODUCTION

Imagery has been shown to be very effective for improving accuracy in sport. Thomas and Fogarty (1997) found that imagery combined with positive self-talk improved not only putting performance, but psychological factors as well. Woolfork et al. (2005) found that positive imagery participants, in comparison to negative imagery training and control group participants, experienced significant increases in putting performance. Moreover, imagery has been shown to positively enhance free-throw shooting among collegiate basketball players. Kearns and Crossman (1992), Shambrook and Bull (1996), Templin and Vernacchia (1993, 1995),Stewart (1997), and Carboni, Burke, Joyner, Hardy, and Blom (2000) have determined imagery to be to some degree effective for most individuals at enhancing free-throw performance.

Much of the research cited above utilized a single subject design. This type of design has proved important in applied sport psychology, demonstrating improvement in individual cases that might be overlooked by traditional group analysis (Shambrook & Bull, 1996). For instance, when a multiple baseline design is used, a conclusion could be drawn that any effects were due to the specific intervention (Bryan, 1987, p. 286). The single subject design, in contrast, allows for individual analysis of the imagery implementation and a way to tailor the intervention to the individual (Stewart, 1997).

Visualization theories have not always been applied to sport performance; they began in the field of cognitive and spatial awareness research. Bess (1909) was among the first researchers of the topic and is credited with developing the measuring system for visualization. The Bess Scale addresses differences in individual imagery ability, drawing on cognitive theory of imagery and tied closely to the understanding of the term kinesthetic imagery(Schiffman, 1995).

A pitcher may be asked to imagine the ball in hand before a throw, to feel the laces and texture on the palm, maybe even to brush the dirt off, as if the ball was just grabbed from the ground. Bess notes that the image should be as clear and detailed as possible, and his Bess Scale measures the vividness of the visualizations practiced with seven classifications of vagueness and vividness. However, Wilson & Barber (1981) found that individuals can vary greatly in their ability to visualize, even when their Bess Scale scores are alike. Moreover, Stoksahl and Ascough (1998) also found that some athletes were very detailed in their imaging, while others were very vague; they concluded that the less vivid images may not be as effective for enhancing performance. Therefore, athletes with lower imagery ability may not reap full performance-enhancement benefits from imagery training. Such findings provide one more reason to investigate the effects of video imagery: Individuals who lack vivid imaging skills may find that a video re-enactment of the task allows them to see the desired performance very clearly, aiding mental preparation for an actual event or task demonstration.

Little research appears in the literature which has examined the effects on performance of internal video imagery, or video depicting an athlete's internal perspective during performance. However, at least some research has integrated videotape modeling with imagery training. Hall and Erffmmeyer (1983) investigated female high school basketball players who were assigned to a video modeling/imagery group and a relaxation/imagery group. Results can only be attributed to a combination of psychological skills, as they were compounded within the study, but it was concluded that the video modeling/imagery group demonstrated better performance in foul shooting, compared to the relaxation/imagery group. Little research seems to exist exploring internal video imagery in other sports contexts, specifically baseball and, more specifically, pitching accuracy. …

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