Cognitive interference in sport
The present investigation examined the role of cognitive interference in sport. In Study 1 an instrument to assess intrusive thoughts athletes experience during performance was developed (Thought Occurrence Questionnaire for Sport; TOQS). In the first part of the study, which involved modification of an instrument constructed in educational settings, three types of thoughts were identified. These were 'performance worries', 'situation irrelevant thoughts' and 'thoughts of escape'. In the second part of the study, which involved validation of the modified instrument, support for the psychometric properties of the TOQS was provided through tests of convergent, concurrent and discriminant validity. Study 2 examined situational antecedents of cognitive interference. Discrepancies between expected and actual performance was identified as the best predictor of cognitive interference athletes experience, whereas cognitive anxiety was found moderately related to cognitive interference. Finally, it was found that athletes experiencing their anxiety states as facilitative reported less cognitive interference than athletes experiencing their anxiety states as debilitative. Study 3 investigated possible effects cognitive interference has on aspects of sport performance based on athletes' perceptions. Participants reported cognitive interference to be detrimental to their concentration. Furthermore, it was revealed that different types of thoughts influence effort input in different ways. The relationship between 'performance worries' and subsequent effort depended on goal attainment expectancies. Athletes holding higher expectancies reported that their worries resulted in increased effort, whereas athletes holding lower expectancies reported their worries to result in decreased effort. 'Situation irrelevant thoughts' were reported not to have any effects on subsequent effort, while 'thoughts of escape' were associated with decreases in effort. Finally, Study 4 examined relationships between achievement goal orientations and cognitive interference. A negative relationship between task orientation and thoughts of escape was the only strong and consistent association that emerged. Goal profiles analysis revealed that, in contrast to athletes holding self-referenced goals, for those holding comparative goals outcome is an important determinant of withdrawal thoughts. The results of the present investigation are discussed in relation to findings in educational and sport settings, and a conceptual model regarding the role of cognitive interference in sport is proposed. Overall, cognitive interference is identified as a topic which requires further examination in the sport psychology domain.