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European Journal of Sport Science
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Sport imagery ability predicts trait confidence, and
challenge and threat appraisal tendencies
Sarah E. Williams a & Jennifer Cumming a
a School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Version of record first published: 03 Feb 2012.
To cite this article: Sarah E. Williams & Jennifer Cumming (2012): Sport imagery ability predicts trait confidence, and
challenge and threat appraisal tendencies, European Journal of Sport Science, 12:6, 499-508
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2011.630102
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reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to
anyone is expressly forbidden.
The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents
will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should
be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims,
proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Sport imagery ability predicts trait confidence, and challenge and
threat appraisal tendencies
SARAH E. WILLIAMS & JENNIFER CUMMING
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Abstract
The present study investigated the interplay among athletes’ sport imagery ability, trait confidence, and tendency to appraise
situations as a challenge and threat. The potential mediating role of trait confidence was also tested. A total of 207 athletes
(M
age
19.44; s1.26; 90 female, 117 male) completed the Sport Imagery Ability Questionnaire to assess ease of imaging
skill, strategy, goal, affect and mastery imagery, the confidence subscale of the Competitive Trait Anxiety Inventory to
measure trait confidence, and the Cognitive Appraisal Scale to assess tendencies to appraise sport situations as a challenge
and as a threat. Structural equation modelling supported a model wherein mastery and goal imagery ability both positively
predicted confidence, which in sequence positively predicted challenge appraisal and negatively predicted threat appraisal
tendency. Partial support was found for confidence mediating the relationship between mastery imagery ability and
appraisal tendencies. In addition, ease of imaging mastery and affect imagery directly predicted challenge appraisal tendency
(positive direction), and ease of imaging mastery imagery directly predicted threat appraisal tendency (negative direction).
Results highlight the importance of motivational imagery ability and the need to assess athletes’ ability to image different
content.
Keywords: Confidence, ease of imaging, mediation, stress appraisal, str uctural equation modelling
Introduction
Although imagery can serve cognitive and motiva-
tional functions (Hall, Mack, Paivio, & Hausenblas,
1998; Martin, Moritz, & Hall, 1999), athletes are
known to use imagery more frequently for motiva-
tional purposes (e.g. Cumming & Hall, 2002; Hall
et al., 1998). One such function is to enhance self-
confidence or, its more specific form, self-efficacy
(for reviews see Martin et al., 1999; Murphy,
Nordin, & Cumming, 2008). Athletes who image
more frequently also report higher levels of trait and
state self-confidence (e.g. Abma, Fry, Li, & Relyea,
2002; Beauchamp, Bray, & Albinson, 2002; Callow
& Hardy, 2001; Moritz, Hall, Martin, & Vadocz,
1996; Vadocz, Hall, & Moritz, 1997). Imagery
interventions have also led to increased self-
confidence and self-efficacy (e.g. Jones, Mace,
Bray, MacRae & Stockbridge, 2002; Nordin &
Cumming, 2005; Short et al., 2002). A proposed
mechanism to explain these effects is that imaging
successful performance of a task can convince an
athlete that he or she can successfully execute the
task (Feltz, 1984; Martin & Hall, 1995).
Indeed, Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1977,
1997) suggests that imaginal experiences are a
potential antecedent of self-efficacy. If people visua-
lize themselves performing well in a difficult compe-
tition, their perceived efficacy to perform well in this
situation is thought to simultaneously increase.
Images of being successful, such as in handling
difficult situations, may therefore enhance self-
efficacy and confidence by acting as a performance
accomplishment. This is likely to be an even stronger
source of self-efficacy if the image has actually been
experienced (i.e. drawn from a past memory of a real
performance). Callow and Waters (2005) extended
this suggestion to kinaesthetic imagery by suggesting
that improvements in confidence resulting from
their intervention were due to the performance
Correspondence: Sarah E. Williams, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15
2TT, UK. E-mail: s.e.williams@bham.ac.uk
European Journal of Sport Science, November 2012; 12(6): 499508
ISSN 1746-1391 print/ISSN 1536-7290 online #2012 European College of Sport Science
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2011.630102
Downloaded by [University of Birmingham] at 03:21 19 December 2012
accomplishment information provided by imaging
the sensations of how it feels to successfully perform.
Imaging someone else such as a teammate handling
difficult situations may also provide the imager with
a source of vicarious experiences. Notable is that
both performance accomplishments and vicarious
experiences are main sources of self-efficacy. While
most studies have investigated the relationship be-
tween imagery use and confidence, less research has
examined the potential influence of imagery ability
on confidence.
Elite athletes who frequently use imagery possess
well developed imagery ability (Barr & Hall, 1992;
Orlick & Partington, 1988), and athletes high in
sport confidence are known to be better imagers than
low sport confident athletes (Barr & Hall, 1992;
Moritz et al., 1996). For example, Moritz et al.
identified that high state confident athletes displayed
significantly higher visual and kinaesthetic imagery
ability compared to their lower level counterparts.
Callow, Roberts, and Fawkes (2006) showed parti-
cipants who imaged completing a down-hill ski-
slalom course while standing on the snow, wearing
their equipment and adopting their race position (i.e.
dynamic imagery) had more vivid images and
increased confidence at performing the task than
those using static imagery. They suggest vividness, a
characteristic of imagery ability, may mediate ima-
gerys influence on confidence. Regarding trait con-
fidence, Abma et al. (2002) reported the ability to
image simple movements did not differ between high
and low level trait confidence athletes. Whilst this
finding suggests imagery ability will not predict trait
sport confidence, the results may be due to only
assessing imagery ability of simple movements and
not the various content athletes experience and use
in relation to their sport.
Although cognitive and motivational imagery con-
tent is used to enhance confidence and efficacy
(Nordin & Cumming, 2005; Short, Monsma, &
Short, 2004), use of mastery images has the stron-
gest link to confidence (e.g. Callow, Hardy & Hall,
1998; White & Hardy, 1998). It follows that an
individuals ability to image mastery content may
also have the strongest link to confidence levels. If an
athlete is able to clearly and vividly see and feel
themselves appearing confident, when they experi-
ence these types of image, they are likely to obtain
greater feelings of confidence elicited from the image
compared to if the image was more difficult to
produce. Abma et al. (2002) assessed athletesability
to image simple movements using the Movement
Imagery Questionnaire Revised (MIQ-R; Hall &
Martin, 1997). Because imagery ability can signifi-
cantly differ according to the content imaged
(Williams & Cumming, 2011), it is not likely that
the resulting MIQ-R scores will be representative of
the athletesability to generate motivational content.
With the recent emergence of the Sport Imagery
Ability Questionnaire (SIAQ; Williams & Cumming,
2011), the relationship between imagery ability and
trait confidence should be re-examined to clarify
which types of imagery ability relate to trait con-
fidence levels. The SIAQ was developed to address
the gap between the diverse range of sport-specific
images athletes experience and the existing imagery
ability measures (see Hall, 1998; Paivio, 1985;
Williams & Cumming, 2011). Derived from Hall
et al.s (1998) extension of Paivios (1985) original
framework, the SIAQ measures the ability to gen-
erate five types of imagery content: skill, strategy,
goal, affect and mastery. Skill and strategy imagery
ability represent the ease of imaging content that is
cognitive in nature, whereas goal, affect and mastery
images represent the ease of imaging motivational
content. Therefore the SIAQ provides a more
complete assessment of athlete imagery ability. By
being able to simultaneously assess cognitive and
motivational imagery ability, Williams and Cum-
ming encourage researchers to employ the SIAQ to
more extensively examine the relationship between
imagery ability of different content and various
psychological characteristics associated with sporting
success.
In addition to confidence, other characteristics
associated with successful sport performance include
facilitative interpretations of stress and anxiety (e.g.
Jones, Hanton, & Swain, 1994; Jones & Swain,
1995), which can influence an athletes motivational
state. Imagery is one method that can enable athletes
to perceive stress and anxiety symptoms as facil-
itative and under control by eliciting higher levels of
self-confidence or self-efficacy (e.g. Cumming, Ol-
phin, & Law, 2007; Jones et al., 2002). Facilitative
interpretations of stress are associated with a chal-
lenge appraisal whereas debilitative interpretations
relate to a threat appraisal (Jones, Meijen,
McCarthy, & Sheffield, 2009). Challenge-appraised
and threat-appraised motivational states are charac-
terized by adaptive and maladaptive approaches to
coping respectively (Blascovich & Mendes, 2000).
When approaching a stressful situation, such as an
important competition, high self-confidence acts as a
precursor to a challenge state by helping athletes to
perceive they have the resources to meet the
demands (Jones et al., 2009). In contrast, a threat
state is experienced when demands are perceived to
outweigh the persons available resources in the
situation. However, increasing self-confidence via
imagery can help participants view the situation as
less of a threat (Williams, Cumming, & Balanos,
2010).
Pulling these different empirical and theoretical
threads together, it is therefore proposed that
500 S. E. Williams & J. Cumming
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confidence may mediate the relationship between
imagery ability and challenge and threat appraisal
tendencies. In other words, imagery ability may
indirectly predict challenge and threat appraisal
tendencies via its relationship with self-confidence.
If athletes are more easily able to see and feel
themselves being successful in their sport and
experiencing the positive feelings and emotions
associated with their sport when they experience
these images, they may be more confident in their
sporting ability. These higher confidence levels may
help the athletes believe they have the resources to
meet the demands of stressful situations and there-
fore result in a tendency to appraise these situations
as a challenge rather than a threat. Moreover, certain
types of imagery ability measured by the SIAQ may
directly relate to a challenge or threat appraisal
tendency. For example, being able to more easily
see mastery images such as ‘‘giving 100% effort even
when things are not going well’’ (SIAQ item 2) will
likely help an individual perceive they have
the resources to meet the demands of a difficult
situation a characteristic indicative of a challenge
appraisal. Similarly, greater imagery ability of ‘‘ the
positive emotions I feel while doing my sport’’ (SIAQ
item 4) is likely to infer emotions associated with a
challenge appraisal. Hence, greater mastery and
affect imagery ability, when experiencing these types
of image, will increase the likelihood athletes ap-
praise stress-evoking situations as a challenge and
reduce the likelihood of appraising them as a threat.
Based on these assumptions, and due to the
SIAQs capacity to assess sport related cognitive
and motivational imagery content, the purpose of the
study was to examine the interplay between sport
imagery ability, trait confidence, and challenge and
threat appraisal tendencies. It also provided the
opportunity to further validate the SIAQ by estab-
lishing its predictive validity of trait confidence and
stress appraisal tendency. The first aim was to
investigate whether ease of imaging skill, strategy,
goal, affect and mastery images predicts trait con-
fidence, and if trait confidence predicts challenge
and threat appraisal tendency. The second aim was
to investigate whether trait confidence mediates the
relationship between ease of imaging and challenge
and threat appraisal tendencies. The third aim was to
investigate whether ease of imaging affect and
mastery images directly predict challenge and threat
appraisal tendencies.
It was hypothesized that by serving as a perfor-
mance accomplishment, greater SIAQ imagery abil-
ity, regardless of whether this is cognitive or
motivational in nature, would positively predict trait
confidence. However, the ability to image mastery
content was expected to be the strongest predictor. It
was also predicted that trait sport confidence would
positively predict a challenge appraisal tendency and
negatively predict a threat appraisal tendency due to
participants perceiving they have the resources to
meet the demands of the situation (Jones et al.,
2009). Additionally, it was hypothesized that trait
confidence would mediate the relationship between
ease of imaging and appraisal tendencies as imagery
can increase self-confidence resulting in facilitative
interpretations of stress and anxiety reflective of a
challenge state (Cumming et al., 2007; Jones et al.,
2002; Williams et al., 2010). Finally, greater affect
and mastery imagery ability were expected to directly
predict a challenge and threat appraisal positively
and negatively respectively, due to each reflecting a
challenge appraisal. The hypothesized model can be
seen in Figure 1.
Method
Participants
Two hundred and seven athletes (117 males, 90
females) with a mean age of 19.44 (s1.26) years
took part in the study. Participants represented a
Mastery imagery
Strategy imagery
Goal imagery
Affect imagery
Challenge tendency
Threat tendency
Skill imagery Trait confidence
Figure 1. Hypothesized model. For visual simplicity, variances are not presented but are hypothesized as significant.
Imagery ability, confidence, and appraisal tendencies 501
Downloaded by [University of Birmingham] at 03:21 19 December 2012
total of 32 different team (n129) and individual
(n78) sports with the majority coming from soccer
(n50), rugby (n28), athletics (n12), and field
hockey (n12). Participants had been participating
in their chosen sport for an average of 6.32 years
(s1.97) and represented a variety of competitive
levels including recreational (n27), club (n115),
regional (n57), and elite (n8).
Measures
Demographic information. Participants provided de-
mographic information which included their gender,
age, sport played, competitive level and years of
playing experience in their sport.
Sport Imagery Ability Questionnaire. The SIAQ (Wil-
liams & Cumming, 2011) is a 15-item questionnaire
designed to measure athletesability to image a
variety of sport-related images. Five subscales each
composed of three items represent skill images (e.g.
making corrections to physical skills), strategy
images (e.g. creating a new game/event plan), goal
images (e.g. myself winning a medal), affect images
(e.g. the anticipation and excitement associated with
my sport), and mastery images (e.g. remaining
confident in a difficult situation). Participants rate
the ease with which they are able to generate each
image on a 7-point Likert type scale ranging from 1
(very hard to image) to 7 (very easy to image). An
average score is then calculated for each of the five
types of imagery. Initial validation of the SIAQ has
identified the questionnaire as a valid and reliable
measure of imagery ability with good psychometric
properties (Williams & Cumming, 2011). In the
present study, the SIAQ demonstrated adequate
internal reliability with composite reliability (CR)
and average variance extracted (AVE) values
all above 0.70 and 0.50 respectively (Hair, Ander-
son, Tatham, & Black, 1998) for skill (CR 0.82,
AVE 0.60), strategy (CR0.84, AVE 0.63), goal
(CR0.84, AVE 0.63), affect (CR 0.78, AVE
0.54), and mastery (CR 0.81, AVE0.60) images.
Competitive Trait Anxiety Inventory. The Competitive
Trait Anxiety Inventory (CTAI; Albrecht & Feltz,
1987) is a 27-item questionnaire which assesses how
cognitively anxious (e.g. I am concerned about
performing poorly), somatically anxious (e.g. my
body feels tense), and self confident (e.g. Im
confident about performing well) individuals gener-
ally feel with regards to competing in their chosen
sport. For the present study only the confidence
intensity subscale was used. Participants rate the
intensity with which they usually experience each of
the nine items before or during competition on a
4-point Likert type scale ranging from 1 (not at all)
to 4 (very much so). The confidence subscale has
been used in isolation in previous studies and has
been demonstrated as a reliable measure (e.g. Neil,
Mellalieu, & Hanton, 2006). For the present study
the CTAI confident intensity subscale demonstrated
adequate internal reliability in the present study with
CR being 0.89 and AVE being 0.50.
Cognitive Appraisal Scale. Participantstrait style of
their cognitive appraisal tendency was assessed using
the cognitive appraisal scale (CAS; Skinner &
Brewer, 2002). The CAS is an 18-item self evalua-
tive questionnaire that assesses the likelihood parti-
cipants appraise situations as a challenge (e.g. I tend
to focus on the positive aspects of any situation) and
a threat (e.g. I feel like a failure). Participants read
each statement reflective of either a challenge or
threat appraisal and then rate the extent they agree
or disagree with each one. Ratings are made on a 6-
point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). Skinner and Brewer
(2002) revealed the CAS to be a reliable question-
naire. For the present study, participants were asked
to answer all questions specific to sport. The CAS
demonstrated adequate internal reliability in the
present study for both the challenge (CR 0.89,
AVE 0.50) and threat (CR0.94, AVE 0.60)
subscales.
Procedures
Participants were recruited from an undergraduate
class and participated for a course credit. Individuals
were provided with an information sheet explaining
the nature of the study and those agreeing to take
part provided their consent understanding that their
participation was voluntary. Participants then pro-
vided their demographic information and completed
the SIAQ, CTAI confidence subscale, and CAS
before being thanked for their participation. Com-
pletion of the study took no longer than 30 minutes.
Results
Data screening
Data were screened for skewness and kurtosis with
all values distributed within the tolerance levels of
normality assumptions based on the recommenda-
tions of previous research (Tabachnick & Fidell,
2007).
Questionnaire factor structure
Data were analysed via structural equation model-
ling (SEM) with maximum likelihood estimations
502 S. E. Williams & J. Cumming
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using the computer package AMOS 16.0 (Arbuckle,
1999). Following the two-step approach to SEM, the
factor structure of each questionnaire was first
examined (Kline, 2005). Each models overall good-
ness of fit was tested using the chi-squared likelihood
ratio statistic ratio (x
2
;Jo
¨reskog & So
¨rbom, 1993).
Because a non-significant x
2
value representing a
good model fit is affected by sample size, two types
of additional fit indices are reported (Hu & Bentler,
1999). First, the standardized root mean square
residual (SRMR; Bentler, 1995) and root mean
square error of approximation (RMSEA) were se-
lected as indicators of absolute fit. A model with
good fit to the data is thought to be reflected in
values of50.08 and 0.06 respectively (Hu & Bentler,
1999). Secondly, the Tucker Lewis Index (TLI) and
Comparative Fit Index (CFI) were selected to reflect
incremental fit with values 0.90 and 0.95
indicating an adequate and excellent model fit
respectively (Hu & Bentler, 1999). Although there
is some debate in the literature over how appropriate
these values are (see Markland, 2007; Marsh, Hau,
& Wen, 2004), these criteria are still the most
commonly reported as indications of an adequate
model fit and are thus followed here.
The CFA for the model representing the SIAQ
revealed a good fit to the data, x
2
(80)116.87,
P0.005, CFI0.97, TLI0.96, SRMR0.04,
RMSEA0.05 (90% CI0.030.07). The CFA
for the model representing the CAS revealed a
slightly poorer fit to the data, x
2
(134)367.38,
PB0.001, CFI0.89, TLI0.88, SRMR0.08,
RMSEA0.09 (90% CI0.080.10). Conse-
quently problematic items were removed in a
step-by-step process to improve model fit through
inspection of the modification indices. Hofmann
(1995) justifies this approach as resultant models
derive from the best-performing indicators without
sacrificing the hypothesized model structure.
Following the removal of two items from the
threat subscale, the CFA for the model representing
the CAS revealed an adequate fit to the data,
x
2
(103)211.30, PB0.001, CFI0.94, TLI
0.94, SRMR0.07, RMSEA0.06 (90% CI
0.060.09). The CFA model representing the
CTAI-2 confidence subscale also revealed a slightly
poor fit to the data, x
2
(27)110.77, PB0.001,
CFI0.90, TLI0.87, SRMR0.06,
RMSEA0.12 (90% CI0.100.15). Inspection
of the modification indices and factor loadings
revealed one problematic item which was removed
to improve model fit, x
2
(20)44.06, P0.001,
CFI0.96, TLI0.95, SRMR0.05, RMSEA
0.07 (90% CI0.050.11). Modifications to the
factor structures did not affect the internal reliability
of the confidence (CR0.89, AVE 0.50) or the
threat (CR0.94, AVE 0.67) subscales.
To improve the variable to sample size ratio and
increase the stability of the estimates, construct
specific parcels were created for remaining items on
the CTAI confidence subscale and CAS question-
naire (Little, Cunningham, Shahar, & Widaman,
2002). An item-to-construct balance approach was
taken whereby the item with the highest factor
loading was parcelled with the item with the lowest
factor loading from the same subscale. The item with
the second highest loading was then paired with the
item displaying the second lowest loading until all
items were assigned to a two-item parcel (Little
et al., 2002). The measurement model as a whole
with parcelled indicators revealed a satisfactory fit to
the data, x
2
(296)567.15, PB0.001, CFI0.90,
TLI0.90, SRMR0.05, RMSEA0.07 (90%
CI0.070.08). Correlations between SIAQ sub-
scales ranged from 0.20 to 0.49 (PB0.001) and
the correlation between challenge and threat
appraisal tendencies was 0.21 (PB0.001). Inspec-
tion of the Mardias coefficient revealed data did
not display multivariate normality (normalized
estimate12.64). Consequently the bootstrapping
technique was employed in all further analysis.
Structural model
According to our hypotheses, as can be seen in
Figure 1, regression paths were drawn from all five
types of imagery ability to confidence. Regression
paths were also drawn from confidence to challenge
appraisal, and to threat appraisal. Finally direct
regression paths were added from affect and mastery
imagery ability to challenge appraisal and from affect
and mastery imagery ability to threat appraisal. The
structural model demonstrated an adequate fit to the
data, x
2
(303)486.23, PB0.001, CFI0.95,
TLI0.94, SRMR0.05, RMSEA0.05 (90%
CI0.050.06). Inspecting the regression weights
indicated that the paths to trait confidence from skill
(P0.293), strategy (P0.237), and affect
(P0.697) imagery ability were all non-significant
and therefore removed from the model. Furthermore
the path from affect imagery ability to threat
appraisal was non-significant (P0.861) and there-
fore removed from the model. The second model
revealed an almost identical fit, x
2
(307)490.90,
PB0.001, CFI0.95, TLI0.94, SRMR0.05,
RMSEA0.05 (90% CI0.050.06). This final
model with standardized regression weights can be
seen in Figure 2. Individuals who find it easier to
image mastery imagery ability (b0.47, PB0.001)
and goal imagery ability (b0.23, P0.009) are
more self-confident, which results in them being
more likely to experience a challenge appraisal
(b0.42, PB0.001) and less likely to experience a
threat appraisal (b0.47, PB0.001). Moreover,
Imagery ability, confidence, and appraisal tendencies 503
Downloaded by [University of Birmingham] at 03:21 19 December 2012
individuals with greater mastery (b0.34,
PB0.001) and affect (b0.29, PB0.001) imagery
ability are more likely to appraise situations as a
challenge, and greater mastery imagery ability
(b0.18, P0.020) is less likely to result in
threat appraisal. The non-significant change in x
2
and the small drop in expected-cross validation index
(ECVI) from 3.09 to 3.07 revealed the second model
fit was more parsimonious (Byrne, 2010).
Testing for mediation
In accordance with our third hypothesis, mediation
analysis was conducted following Holmbecks
(1997) SEM approach. Baron and Kenny (1986)
explain that mediation occurs when a variable (i.e. a
predictor) that directly predicts an outcome variable
no longer predicts this variable once a third variable
(i.e. a mediator) is controlled. Instead the predictor
predicts the mediator and the mediator then predicts
the outcome variable. Partial mediation is when the
relationship between the predictor and the outcome
variable is reduced once the mediator is controlled
for. In order for mediation to be occurring, a direct
relationship must first exist between the predictor
and the outcome variable in the absence of the
mediating variable. Consequently, a direct effects
model was first tested to investigate whether there
was a direct association from the predictors (i.e. goal
and mastery imagery ability) to the outcomes (i.e.
challenge and threat appraisal tendencies). A model
was created whereby direct paths were inserted from
goal imagery ability and mastery imagery ability to
challenge appraisal and threat appraisal. This model
provided an adequate fit to the data, x
2
(215)359.65, PB0.001, CFI0.95, TLI0.94,
SRMR0.05, RMSEA0.06 (90% CI0.05
0.07). However inspection of the beta weights
revealed that the pathways from goal imagery ability
to challenge appraisal tendency (P0.071), and
from goal imagery ability to threat appraisal ten-
dency were non-significant (P0.397), meaning
mediation cannot account for potential indirect
effects between goal imagery ability and challenge
and threat appraisal tendencies (Holmbeck, 1997).
The remaining pathways in the model were all
significant, indicating mastery imagery ability sig-
nificantly predicted a challenge (b0.55, PB0.001)
and threat (b0.43, PB0.001) tendency.
The second step is to confirm the fit of the
constrained model. This is to establish significant
paths between the independent variable (i.e. mastery
imagery ability) and mediator (i.e. trait confidence),
and between the mediator and outcome variables
(i.e. challenge and threat appraisal tendency). The
constrained model provided an adequate fit to the
data, x
2
(309)506.88, PB0.001, CFI0.94,
TLI0.93, SRMR0.06, RMSEA0.06 (90%
CI0.050.06). Results revealed that mastery ima-
gery ability significantly predicted confidence
(b0.49, PB0.001) and confidence significantly
predicted a challenge (b0.56, PB0.001) and
threat (b0.59, PB0.001) appraisal tendency.
The final step is to examine an unconstrained
model. This is when direct paths between the
independent (i.e. ease of imaging mastery images)
and dependent (i.e. challenge and threat appraisal
tendencies) variables are added to the model. Results
reported earlier (Figure 2) demonstrated these sig-
nificant paths which confirm the constrained model
fit. The final step for determining mediation is to
compare the less (i.e. unconstrained) and more
restricted (i.e. constrained) models using the
SatorraBentler x
2
difference test (Holmbeck,
1997). If the unconstrained model does not offer
an advanced representation of the data to that of the
constrained model, this is evidence of trait confi-
dence acting as a mediator (Holmbeck, 1997).
Mastery imagery
Strategy imagery
Goal imagery
Affect imagery
Challenge tendency
Threat tendency
Skill imagery Trait confidence
β = .23**
β = .47***
β = .29***
β = .34***
β = -.18*
β = .42***
β = -.47***
Figure 2. Final model predicting trait condence, and challenge and threat tendency. Note: All coefcients are standardized. *PB0.05,
**PB0.01, ***PB0.001. For visual simplicity, variances are not presented but were all signicant (PB0.01).
504 S. E. Williams & J. Cumming
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Results demonstrated a significant difference indi-
cating the unconstrained model offered a better
representation of the data (x
2
difference15.98, df
difference2, PB0.001). However the x
2
difference
test has received criticism as it only tests for
complete mediation (Preacher & Hayes, 2008).
Consequently, in a similar approach to Quested
and Duda (2010), we examined the significance of
the indirect effects in the model (see MacKinnon,
2000, for details of the employed method to test for
significance). Results revealed that ease of imaging
mastery and goal images each had a significant
indirect effect through confidence on challenge
appraisal (z1.96) and mastery imagery ability
had a significant indirect effect through confidence
on threat appraisal (zB1.96).
Discussion
The aim of the present study was to investigate the
interplay between skill, strategy, goal, affect and
mastery imagery ability, with trait confidence, and
challenge and threat appraisal tendencies. More
specifically, the first aim was to investigate whether
each type of imagery ability predicted trait confi-
dence, and secondly whether trait confidence in turn
predicted challenge and threat appraisal tendencies.
The third aim investigated whether trait confidence
mediated the relationship between imagery ability
and appraisal tendency. The fourth aim examined
whether affect and mastery imagery ability could
directly predict challenge and threat appraisal ten-
dencies. Based on research suggesting imagery can
serve as a source of vicarious experiences and
performance accomplishments (Bandura, 1997; Cal-
low & Waters, 2005), it was hypothesized that
greater SIAQ imagery ability would positively predict
trait confidence and this sequence would positively
predict a challenge appraisal and negatively predict a
threat appraisal. As such it was hypothesized that
confidence would mediate the relationship between
imagery ability and appraisal tendency. Finally it was
hypothesized that mastery and affect imagery ability
would directly predict challenge and threat tenden-
cies positively and negatively respectively, due to
content of what is being imaged reflecting a chal-
lenge state.
Partly as predicted, results revealed that both
mastery and goal imagery ability positively predicted
trait confidence. Therefore athletes who can more
easily image persisting during difficult situations,
and achieving various goals and outcomes, display
higher levels of trait sport confidence. As well as
motivational imagery use being most strongly linked
to confidence (e.g. Callow et al., 1998; White &
Hardy, 1998), this finding also demonstrates moti-
vational imagery ability is also most strongly linked
to confidence. Opposing our hypothesis, skill, strat-
egy and affect imagery ability did not predict sport
confidence. This was unexpected, particularly for
skill and strategy imagery because easily experien-
cing successful task execution through imagery
should convince athletes they are capable of success-
fully performing the task in real life (Bandura, 1997;
Callow & Waters, 2005; Feltz, 1984; Martin & Hall,
1995). However, this finding is in accordance with
Abma et al. (2002) who revealed trait confidence did
not differ as a result of movement imagery ability as
measured by the MIQ-R (i.e. a form of cognitive
imagery ability). Possibly, only a greater use of
cognitive imagery is associated with higher levels of
confidence and not greater cognitive imagery ability.
In accordance with our hypothesis, trait confi-
dence positively predicted a challenge appraisal and
negatively predicted a threat appraisal. Individuals
experience a challenge state when they perceive
themselves to have the resources to meet the
demands of a stress-evoking situation, and experi-
ence a threat state when resources are not adequate
(Jones et al., 2009). Encountering a stress-evoking
situation with greater levels of trait confidence will
likely help athletes believe they have the resources to
meet the demands thus experiencing a challenge
state.
Trait confidence appeared to partially mediate the
relationship between mastery imagery ability and
appraisal tendencies. More interesting was the size of
the beta weightings for mastery imagery ability
directly predicting challenge (b0.34) and threat
(b0.18) appraisal tendencies, even when indir-
ect effects via trait confidence were accounted for.
This demonstrates that ease of imaging mastery
images does not solely predict stress appraisal
tendency through predicting trait confidence. It
was interesting that affect imagery ability directly
predicted an individuals challenge appraisal ten-
dency but did not predict trait confidence or threat
appraisal tendency. This further supports the
capacity for motivational imagery ability to predict
stress appraisal tendency without being indirectly
through trait confidence.
To our knowledge this is the first study to reveal
that the ease of imaging both mastery and affect
images directly predicts challenge and threat apprai-
sal tendencies. Individuals who find imaging mastery
content (e.g. ‘‘remaining confident in a difficult
situation’’) easier are more likely to appraise stress-
evoking situations as a challenge and less likely to
perceive them as a threat. More clearly imaging this
content may cause the athlete to believe they have
the resources to meet the demands of stress-evoking
situations, which subsequently leads to a challenge
appraisal (Jones et al., 2009). In the present study,
individuals who were able to easily image the feelings
Imagery ability, confidence, and appraisal tendencies 505
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and emotions associated with a successful perfor-
mance (affect images) were more likely to appraise
sport situations as a challenge. However affect
imagery ability did not predict a threat appraisal
tendency. This may be due to SIAQ affect items
referring to and eliciting positive emotions that are
only associated with a challenge state (see Lazarus,
1991; Jones et al., 2009). Therefore being able more
easily create and control these positive feelings and
emotions will lead to a challenge appraisal. The
correlation between challenge appraisal tendency
and a threat appraisal tendency was only small in
size. Therefore although the direction of the correla-
tion suggests individuals who are high in one state
will be low in another, the small size of this
correlation suggests this will not always be the case
and some individuals may be high or low in both
states. This may help explain why affect imagery
ability did not negatively predict a threat appraisal
whilst predicting a challenge appraisal in a positive
direction. It may be that the ability to image negative
emotions not measured by the SIAQ would posi-
tively predict a threat appraisal tendency and is
something we encourage future research to examine.
Mastery and affect imagery ability may also
predict challenge and threat appraisal tendency
through other variables not measured. The Theory
of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (TCTSA;
Jones et al., 2009) proposes that perceptions of
control and approach or avoidance motivation are
antecedents in addition to self-efficacy that can
influence whether an individual perceives they have
the resources to meet the demands and thus whether
a challenge or a threat state is experienced (Jones
et al., 2009). Higher levels of perceived control and
an emphasis on approach goals are thought to lead to
a challenge appraisal. Conversely, lower levels of
perceived control and a focus on avoidance goals are
thought to result in a threat appraisal (Jones
et al., 2009). Mastery and affect images could
influence these antecedents, namely perceived con-
trol. Mastery images such as ‘‘remaining confident in
a difficult situation’’, are likely to bolster feelings of
maintaining control over stressful situations. Simi-
larly a greater capacity to image affect items such as
‘‘the positive emotions I feel while doing my sport’’
are likely to infer feelings of being in control of the
situation. Despite there currently being no standar-
dized measure of perceived control that is frequently
used, we invite future research to investigate whether
mastery and affect imagery ability is able to manip-
ulate this antecedent and influence challenge and
threat appraisal tendencies.
Although a conclusive underlying explanation
cannot be provided for the direct predictions of
mastery and affect imagery ability on challenge and
threat appraisal tendency, the findings highlight the
important role of imagery ability in determining
motivational outcomes. As well as higher imagery
ability leading to greater benefits obtained through
use (e.g. Goss, Hall, Buckolz, & Fishburne, 1986;
McKenzie & Howe, 1997; Robin et al., 2007),
higher imagery ability also predicts adaptive ap-
proaches to performance without the need for an
imagery intervention. Merely possessing a higher
level of mastery and affect imagery ability more likely
leads to a challenge appraised state and is less likely
to result in a threat state. This suggests that in the
applied setting, improving individualsimagery abil-
ity of goal, affect and mastery type images could
improve their confidence levels and the likelihood of
appraising stress-evoking situations as a challenge
rather than a threat. As such more adaptive ap-
proaches to coping may occur when competing in a
pressurized situation. The findings of the present
study also further validate the SIAQ and highlight its
usefulness when investigating the relationship be-
tween imagery ability and various outcomes. Only
motivational imagery ability predicted confidence
and appraisal tendencies. It is likely that if a move-
ment imagery ability questionnaire had assessed
imagery ability, due to it assessing different content,
the influence of imagery ability on trait confidence
and appraisal tendencies would have been over-
looked. This SIAQs capability at assessing imagery
ability of different cognitive and motivational ima-
gery content supports its use in research and the
applied work.
Considering the method of analysis use in this
study, a limitation could be the relatively small
sample size. However, Boomsma (as cited in Ta-
bachnick & Fidell, 2007) suggested that a sample
size of 200 is sufficient for medium sized models.
Furthermore constructing parcels for items on the
CAS subscales and CTAI confidence subscale was
done to improve the variable to sample size ratio, and
increase the stability of the estimates (Little et al.,
2002). As such we believe the approach taken was
more appropriate than running multiple regressions
increasing the likelihood of a type I error. Although
the results demonstrate a relationship between
imagery ability, confidence and stress appraisals,
the cross sectional nature of the data collection
prevents the conclusion that a causal relationship
exists. To clarify this issue, future research should
investigate these relationships in more detail over
time and investigate whether improving an indivi-
duals imagery ability can result in an improvement
in confidence and lead to a greater likelihood of
appraising stress evoking situations as a challenge
rather than a threat.
Future research should continue investigating the
role imagery ability has on predicting various cogni-
tive and motivational outcomes. Using the SIAQ and
506 S. E. Williams & J. Cumming
Downloaded by [University of Birmingham] at 03:21 19 December 2012
Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ; Hall et al.,
1998) researchers could investigate the extent to
which outcomes are influenced by imagery ability
and imagery use, and whether this is general or
specific to one type of imagery. Future research
should also use the SIAQ as a screening tool to assess
imagery ability when studies use imagery similar in
content to the SIAQ items. This will produce a more
accurate reflection of the individuals imagery ability
of images used in the intervention.
In conclusion, the results revealed mastery and
goal imagery positively predicted trait confidence,
which positively predicted a challenge appraisal and
negatively predicted a threat appraisal tendency.
Although trait confidence partially mediated the
relationship between ease of mastery imaging and
appraisal tendency, affect and mastery imagery
ability directly predicted a challenge appraisal, and
mastery imagery ability directly predicted a threat
appraisal. Findings highlight the importance of
maximizing an individuals imagery ability. Signifi-
cant predictions were only evident for motivational
imagery ability and not skill or strategy images,
which demonstrates the influence imagery ability of
different content has on predicting outcomes. Future
research should continue using the SIAQ to examine
the relationship between imagery ability of different
content and other cognitive and motivational out-
comes. Due to its more comprehensive assessment of
sport imagery ability, the SIAQ should also be used
as a screening measure for athletes in studies using
imagery of a motivational content that are not
assessed by frequently employed movement imagery
ability questionnaires.
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... The results also indicated that through mastery imagery and goal imagery, there was a positive influence on self-efficacy. Selfefficacy in this study was defined as an athlete's expected performance at an internal selection competition to be held in the future and was related to trait confidence described by Williams and Cumming (2012). As a result, it was expected that the ability to recall mastery imagery and goal imagery would enhance selfefficacy before the competition. ...
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