Coombes et al. conduced two experiments that looked at the relationship between emotions, movement speed, and accuracy by displaying unpleasant and pleasant pictures. The study used a square-tracing task and used physiological and self assessments to measure “affective valence and arousal” (Coombes et al., 2005, p. 425). They study confirmed that unpleasant pictures led to more errors and quicker movements than did pleasant pictures. More specifically, when unpleasant pictures were displayed for a shorter amount of time, the participants were less accurate and when the unpleasant pictures were displayed several times, the participants’ movement times were faster.
When reading this study, I was wondering if we could use this information to help athletes when they are faced with an unpleasant stimuli or situation? I was curious about how transferrable these finding are to skills such as visualization? Could an athlete use visualization to change an unpleasant stimuli to a positive stimuli, and in turn improve their accuracy? For example, if I were working with a tennis player who was facing an unpleasant stimuli, such as a hostile or unpleasant opponent, could the athlete image a pleasant picture in their mind, in order to increase their accuracy?
As humans, we live in of a world full of emotions that impact our decisions, movements, and performance. Due to the extremely large role emotions have in our lives, it is very important, as coaches and consultants, to understand the impact they can have on performance. We are ultimately trying to help athletes perform to the best of their abilities and so it is crucial we understand all of the factor that contribute to performance. I would like to research this topic further to really understand how transferrable these findings are and how pleasant and unpleasant stimuli impact other aspects of performance.
Coombes, S. A., Janelle, C. M., & Duley, A. R. (2005). Emotion and motor control: Movement attributes following affective picture processing. Journal of Motor Behavior, 37(6), 425-426.