This book integrates findings from across domains in performance psychology to focus on core research on what influences peak and non-peak performance. The book explores basic and applied research identifying cognition-action interactions, perception-cognition interactions, emotion-cognition interactions, and perception-action interactions. The book explores performance in sports, music, and the arts both for individuals and teams/groups, looking at the influence of cognition, perception, personality, motivation and drive, attention, stress, coaching, and age. This comprehensive work includes contributions from the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and Australia.
- Integrates research findings found across domains in performance psychology
- Includes research from sports, music, the arts, and other applied settings
- Identifies conflicts between cognition, action, perception, and emotion
- Explores influences on both individual and group/team performance
- Investigates what impacts peak performance and error production
Theoretical Framework of Performance Psychology
An Action Theory Perspective
Jürgen R. Nitsch1
, and Dieter Hackfort2 1Department of Performance Psychology, Institute of Psychology, German Sport University Cologne, Germany 2University of the Federal Armed Forces Munich, Germany
First, the psychological perspective on performance is characterized with regard to the scope of performance psychology, the structure of performance orientation, and the characteristics of peak performance. The second step addresses the action theoretical foundation of performance psychology. Third, particular attention is given to the functional and dysfunctional roles of pleasant as well as unpleasant emotions in action organization.
In particular, the action theoretical perspective as developed by the authors is characterized by three fundamental assumptions: (1) The basic nature of humans is substantiated by the necessity and capability of organizing life by actions. (2) Action is a system process, that is, the integrated response of an agent to his or her present situation in the world. (3) Psychological processes, states, and traits are considered as fundamentally related to action.
These assumptions are differentiated with respect to intention as the organizing principle of action; situation as the actual context of action established by the constellation of person, environment, and task; system levels of action organization (i.e., physical, biological, mental, and social); the phase structure of actions (i.e., anticipation, realization, and interpretation); and functional systems of action control (i.e., cognitive, emotional, and automatic).
Action phases; Action space; Action theory; Anticipation; Emotion; Intention; Peak performance; Performance psychology; Situated action; Systems approach Performance is a constituent element of human life and a particular objective of manifold everyday activities. Consequently, it is addressed from the perspective of different scientific disciplines ranging from philosophy to biochemistry. In psychology, performance became a traditional topic in various fields of fundamental and applied psychology, e.g., in educational psychology, occupational psychology, clinical psychology, and sport psychology. Aside from the test diagnostic assessment of "classic" performance variables (e.g., reaction time, concentration, intelligence), numerous empirical studies are focused on the efficiency and vulnerability of mental functioning
on the one hand and on social interaction in performance settings
on the other. Typical issues are learning and memory; problem solving; decision-making; movement control; time management; learning and achievement motivation; coping with stress, anxiety, and failure; error prevention; performance-related mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; burnout and dropout; as well as team building; division of tasks; allocation of responsibilities; teamwork skills; conflict management; mobbing prevention; and leadership style. In applied sport psychology, "performance psychology" commonly covers a toolbox of intervention techniques related to "mental power," "mental strength," "mental toughness," "mental fitness," or more specifically to self-confidence and self-efficacy, for example, self-motivation, self-programming, goal-setting, self-talk, imagery, visualization and mental training, stress-inoculation, cognitive reframing, attention control, relaxation, and biofeedback (see, e.g., Dosil, 2006
; Hackfort & Tenenbaum, 2006
; Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996
). In spite of those multifarious aspects, there has been, however, neither a comprehensive and consensual definition of performance psychology until now nor an integrative theory that provides the potential to systematically guide research and application, thus making the dynamic complexity of human performance sufficiently understandable, controllable, and communicable. So, it is worth paying particular attention to these issues. This will happen in three theory-oriented steps: First, the psychological perspective on performance is characterized, providing a preliminary understanding of performance psychology and its subject area. The second and main step addresses the needed (meta-) theoretical foundation of performance psychology. Accordingly, the focus is not on listing various performance-related theoretical concepts (e.g., for team sports thoroughly carried out by Lebed & Bar-Eli, 2013
) but on embedding and considering the performance issue within the overall context of human action organization. Therefore, essentials of the action theory perspective as developed by the authors are outlined and specified with regard to the issue at hand. Third, particular attention is given to the functional role of emotions in action organization. This will contribute to further illustrating action theoretical postulates and to a more proper theory-based understanding of emotional states and processes with special regard to both performance and in general.
Definition and Scope of Performance Psychology
Performance and Psychology
The general task of performance psychology is related to the description, explanation, prediction, and optimization of performance-oriented activities in accordance with general and domain-specific ethical standards. The psychological perspective on performance comprises three issues: (1) the psychological fundamentals
of performance-oriented activities in various action domains such as labor, politics, arts, music, or sports; (2) psychological transfer effects
of performance-oriented activities in particular with regard to personality development, self-esteem, time management, stress control, communication skills, etc.; and (3) optimization of the capability to achieve demanding mental tasks
. This understanding refers to different agents
, for example, individuals, groups, and organizations, young and elderly, as well as people with or without disabilities. It covers different motives, domains, and kinds of activity
, for example, school/academic education, the whole range of professional activities, health-oriented sport and exercise, and elite sports, housekeeping, and playing music, as well as strange and/or extraordinary performances documented in the Guinness World Records
. Even health, well-being, youthfulness, beautifulness or life expectancy are increasingly considered to be products of more or less successfully self-managed activity for which the person is self-responsible. In addition, the preceding definition includes different proficiency levels
(e.g., novices and experts, amateurs and professionals) as well as different criteria of performance
, for example, primary criteria related to the action itself and its direct results (frequency, duration, speed, accuracy, novelty, required effort, and their combinations), and secondary criteria in the sense of external/extrinsic social evaluation and feedback. According to Bem's (1972)
"self-perception theory," the latter follows a simple logic: If I (or someone else) receive recognition such as praise, awards, applause, or many scientific citations, then the corresponding performance must have been outstanding! (As we all know, that is often a misguiding conclusion!) For a better understanding of the psychological perspective on performance, it is necessary to distinguish two functional aspects of performance: (1) performance as a means to an end
with regard to the motives and interests that are intended to satisfy by the consequences of a performance action; (2) performance as an end in itself
, that is, the accent is on the self-reinforcing performance activity itself and its progressive perfection. In this sense, striving for excellence more or less turns into functional autonomy. Furthermore, we must be aware of the formally twofold usage of the term "performance" (1) as related to a class of specific actions and outcomes
or (2) as a more or less marked dimension of any kind of human action
(that is the position preferred here).
Structure of Performance Orientation
The key features of any performance orientation
can be summarized as follows (see Figure 1
): 1. Reference Standards
: Feeling challenged to set/raise and to meet/exceed demanding reference standards, which are considered as binding for the evaluation of the course and outcome of an action and specified by the habitual and/or actual aspiration level. According to well-known conceptions of achievement motivation, typical references are individual's prior performance (Individual Reference Standard
; e.g., actual "handicap" of a golf player), the performance of relevant others (Interindividual ReferenceStandard
; e.g., handicap or actual results of other golf players on a tour), the demands of a given task (Task Reference Standard
; e.g., the "par" as the strokes calculated for one "hole" in golf), and/or a specific standard value that must be met (Normative Reference Standard
; e.g., maximum handicap needed to be allowed to play on a golf course). Figure 1
Structure of performance orientation (broken lines...