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Title: Understanding performance under pressure : anxiety, attention, cognitive biases and the perception of failure
Author: Payne, K.
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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It is consistently found that heightened anxiety leads to poorer performance in sport environments, with the majority of research reporting that disrupted attentional mechanisms explain the negative anxiety-performance relationship. However, there has been little exploration of why sports performers might become anxious in the first instance. Additionally, the effect these different interpretations of pressure might have on attentional control and performance has not been explored. These two issues drove the main aims of the current thesis, which sought to test the predictions of a new theory developed by researchers in the anxiety-performance area. First, the thesis systematically collated the evidence in regards to the attentional mechanisms underpinning the anxiety-performance relationship to determine the consensus in the sporting literature, including the challenges and areas of emergent or current research. Second, the thesis addressed the research challenges highlighted in the review by exploring the Attentional Control Theory Sport (ACTS; Eysenck & Wilson, 2016) with the aim to understand what initiates the anxiety response in individuals, in particular through the interpretation of pressure. The first experimental study examined the cognitive biases element of ACTS and investigated whether attention and interpretive bias as moderating variables of state anxiety are related to trait anxiety and attentional control, with the intention of better understanding what pre-empts experiencing cognitive biases. The second experimental study examined the perception of failure by determining whether perceived probability and cost of failure influenced the experience of state anxiety. Finally, the third experimental study built upon the aims from the previous studies and examined the hypothesised relationships between cognitive biases, perception of failure and state anxiety, attentional control and performance. This work is the first to empirically examine the theoretically derived predictions of ACTS, through exploring attentional and interpretive biases, perceived probability and cost of failure and the influence on momentary state anxiety, attentional control and performance.
Supervisor: Vine, S. ; Wilson, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available