PSYCH  Vol.5 No.9 , July 2014
Is Choking under Pressure a Consequence of Skill-Focus or Increased Distractibility? Results from a Tennis Serve Task
ABSTRACT

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that athletes often choke in high pressure situations because anxiety can affect attention regulation and in turn performance. There are two competing theoretical approaches to explain the negative anxiety-performance relationship. According to skillfocus theories, anxious athletes’ attention is directed at how to execute the sport-specific movements which interrupts execution of already automatized movements in expert performers. According to distraction theories, anxious athletes are distractible and focus less on the relevant stimuli. We tested these competing assumptions in a between-subject design, as semi-professional tennis players were either assigned to an anxiety group (n = 25) or a neutral group (n = 28), and performed a series of second tennis serves into predefined target areas. As expected, anxiety was negatively related to serve accuracy. However, mediation analyses with the bootstrapping method revealed that this relationship was fully mediated by self-reported distraction and not by skill-focus.


Cite this paper
Englert, C. & Oudejans, R. (2014). Is Choking under Pressure a Consequence of Skill-Focus or Increased Distractibility? Results from a Tennis Serve Task. Psychology, 5, 1035-1043. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.59116.
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