The differences in the variables of attention, anxiety and mental imagery in golf and tennis players

Lawrence Michael Jennings, Fordham University


The present research compared golf and tennis players on variables of anxiety, attention and mental imagery in an attempt to determine whether athletes in different sports rely on different cognitive perceptual variables for maximum effectiveness in their sporting tasks. Questions posed for exploration were whether golfers require lower arousal level, better focusing ability, lower cognitive anxiety, and greater controllability over mental imagery than tennis players, and whether tennis players require greater attentional scanning ability and can withstand higher arousal levels than golfers. The subjects were the best nationally ranked amateur athletes in the nation and included 31 golfers and 29 tennis players. They were male, ranged in age from 15 to 19, and were all in the junior level of competition for their sport. They were tested on the Sport Competition Anxiety Test, the Cognitive Somatic Anxiety Questionnaire, the Research Questionnaire and the Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style. Results revealed that golf and tennis players differed significantly on attentional abilities of scanning and focusing, with tennis players showing superior ability on both. The findings that tennis players had significantly greater focusing ability than golfers was contrary to the prediction that golfers would be higher on this measure. When both predicted and unpredicted results were considered, the study indicated that there were no overall arousal differences between the golf and tennis players. The two sports did not differ on cognitive anxiety (equated with cognitive loading), but did differ on somatic anxiety, with golfers exhibiting a lower level. This might indicate a difference in the motoric demands of each sport, with tennis loading higher on this component. The sports did not differ in mental imagery ability, while tennis players showed superior attentional abilities in scanning and focusing. The study highlighted the danger of basing sport performance enhancement techniques on logically derived conclusions rather than empirical data. Many of the proposed differences between the sports in this study were not found despite the sound logic behind them.

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Recommended Citation

Jennings, Lawrence Michael, "The differences in the variables of attention, anxiety and mental imagery in golf and tennis players" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818461.