Coombes, Janelle, and Duley (2005) were interested in the impact of emotion on the performance of a square-tracing task after exposed to pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral pictures. Findings from Experiment 1 suggest that arousal may facilitate accuracy of performance only if perceived as pleasant. This study found that performance times were significantly faster following exposure to unpleasant stimuli than following exposure to pleasant stimuli, confirming previous findings that exposure to negative stimuli results in faster movements.
The results from the study can be used to help explain everyday life, as well as sport. When people are presented with a negative stimulus, they are more likely to respond more quickly, but with much less accuracy. When a negative stimulus is presented, particularly for a very brief moment, more of a survival mode takes over, causing the person to react much faster, but possibly at the loss of rational thinking. Depending on the amount of transference from these findings, one can relate them to working with athletes and their reactions.
Particularly with teams, such as basketball, volleyball, and football teams, these findings could suggest that when presented with a negative stimulus or play, one should pause and refocus before reacting to or addressing the previous play with teammates because of the potential for a quicker, less thought-out response caused by the negative stimulus. Similarly, the amount of time the negative stimulus is presented could also have an effect on a person’s response and reaction. These findings could also be applied to feedback from coaches, particularly negative feedback (stimulus) and the response that quick, negative feedback could have on an athlete’s performance and accuracy. Refocusing, positive self-talk, and ‘flushing it’ can all improve and possibly decrease the likelihood for the negative impact of negative stimuli on the performer.