Imagery and self-talk are functionally similar and theoretically connected psychological strategies. In accordance with the multi-strategy approach to psychological skills training, there have been suggestions that athletes should use imagery and self-talk in conjunction (Hardy, Gammage, & Hall, 2001a). Although intuitively appealing, these recommendations are premature due to the evidence suggesting that situational demands, functional requirements and individual differences may influence athlete preferences for usage. This thesis aimed to address this ambiguity and identify the factors influencing the use and effectiveness of imagery and self-talk in golfers. The first three studies used a variety of methodologies including surveys, interviews and focus groups to profile existing practice and determine the predominant factors affecting usage. The final study examined the performance effects associated with the use of an imagery and self-talk intervention, that had been created based on the profiled information. Study one determined the impact that individual differences in golfers’ preferred cognitive styles had on their use of imagery and self-talk in practice and competition. Results revealed that golfers’ preferred cognitive styles did not influence the formation of preferences for the use of one strategy rather than the other. Instead, all golfers reported using both strategies equally, although their use was reported more widely in competition than practice. Whilst study one ruled out preferred cognitive style as a determinant of golfers’ preferences for the use of imagery and self-talk, it did not clarify how and why the two intervention strategies were used independently and in combination. The purpose of study two was therefore to identify how golfers used imagery and self-talk in combination and separately, considering the influence of contextual factors and functional requirements. Findings indicated that rather than employing the use of the strategies continuously throughout competition, golfers emphasised their use prior to the execution of particular golf strokes in specific conditions. Study three identified the common characteristics of the competitive situations where golfers employed the use of imagery and self-talk. Findings revealed that golfers emphasised, and actively used, imagery and self-talk most when playing golf strokes under stressful competitive conditions. As a result of this finding, the next phase of study three examined how golfers used imagery and self-talk as problem and emotion focussed coping strategies when playing golf strokes under stressful competitive conditions. Results indicated that golfers predominantly used imagery and self-talk as problem focussed coping strategies, making more use of imagery than self talk. The purpose of the fourth study was to examine the effectiveness of using imagery in isolation, and in combination with self-talk, as a problem focussed coping strategy when dealing with golf strokes under stressful conditions in competitive situations. Findings revealed that golfers perceived their execution of golf strokes under stressful conditions to be most effective when imagery and self-talk were used in combination. However, this perceived advantage did not translate into identifiable performance gains during the monitored competitive rounds. Although the inherent variability of golf performance might have made it difficult to determine noticeable changes in performance, it was suggested that the lack of effects observed may have been due to the fact that imagery and self-talk as problem focussed coping strategies were simply ineffective. Findings taken together revealed that contextual factors are the most influential determinant of golfers’ use of imagery and self talk. Furthermore, golfers emphasise the use of imagery and self-talk most when they need to perform golf strokes under stressful conditions, applying their use as problem focussed coping strategies. However, results from the final study appeared to suggest that this approach to the use of imagery and self-talk might be ineffective.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - Nov 2011|