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Imagery interventions in sport

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1 Imagery interventions in sport
Jennifer Cumming and Richard Ramsey
Introduction
Imagery is described as an experience that mimics real experience, and involves
using a combination of different sensory modalities in the absence of actual
perception. White and Hardy explained that “we can be aware of ‘seeing’ an
image, feeling movements as an image, or experiencing an image of smell,
taste or sounds without experiencing the real thing” (1998: 389), whereas
Moran defined imagery as “perception without sensation” (2004: 133). Another
commonality among definitions is the notion that individuals are self-aware and
conscious during the imagery experience (Richardson, 1969). For example,
White and Hardy distinguished imagery from dreaming because the individual
is awake and conscious when imaging.
Among sport performers and coaches, imagery is a popular and well-accepted
strategy for enhancing various aspects of performance. The importance of this
strategy is reflected in anecdotal reports of successful athletes. For example,
Ronaldinho, a midfielder for FC Barcelona and one of the world’s best foot-
ballers, eloquently described his use of imagery before the World Cup in 2006 in
an article appearing in the New York Times Sports Magazine:
When I train, one of the things I concentrate on is creating a mental picture
of how best to deliver that ball to a team-mate, preferably leaving him alone
in front of the rival goalkeeper. So what I do, always before a game, always,
every night and every day, is try and think up things, imagine plays, which
no one else will have thought of, and to do so always bearing in mind the
particular strengths of each team-mate to whom I am passing the ball.
When I construct those plays in my mind I take into account whether one
team-mate likes to receive the ball at his feet, or ahead of him; if he is good
with his head, and how he prefers to head the ball; if he is stronger on his
right or his left foot. That is my job. That is what I do. I imagine the game.
(4 June 2006)
Descriptive research also suggests that imagery is frequently used by the best
athletes. In their study of the elements of success, Orlick and Partington (1988)
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found that 99 per cent of Canadian Olympic athletes surveyed reported using
imagery as a preparation strategy. Furthermore, higher-level athletes or those
with more experience typically report greater use of the strategy than their
lower-level or less-experienced counterparts (e.g. Barr and Hall, 1992;
Cumming and Hall, 2002a, 2002b; Hall et al., 1998; Salmon et al., 1994).
Not surprisingly, imagery has become a widely researched topic within the
field of sport psychology as evidenced by numerous published studies, recent
book chapters (e.g. Callow and Hardy, 2005; Moran, 2004; Murphy et al., in
press), an entire book (Morris et al., 2005), and the introduction of a journal
devoted to publishing imagery research in the physical domain (Journal of
Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity). The aim of our chapter is to
complement this body of literature with a review focusing specifically on
imagery interventions. The emphasis will be on contemporary frameworks
guiding such work with particular reference to the applied model of imagery use
(Martin et al., 1999) and the PETTLEP model (Holmes and Collins, 2001). We
will also discuss how recent advancements in the cognitive neurosciences may
inform intervention design and measurement with recommendations made for
best practice.
Key terms
A useful starting point in any review is to clarify the meaning of key terms
frequently used in the literature. Indeed, there has been confusion resulting
from the interchangeable use of “visualisation” and “mental practice” with
imagery. Several authors have argued that these terms are referring to related
but distinctly different constructs (e.g. Morris et al., 2005; Murphy and Martin,
2002). While visualisation denotes a particular sensory modality (i.e. vision),
imagery encompasses all different “quasi-sensory or quasi-perceptual experi-
ences” (Richardson, 1969: 2). In research, imagery is the preferred and most
commonly used term since athletes’ images are not limited to just those experi-
enced in the mind’s eye (e.g. Munroe et al., 2000). Murphy and Martin (2002)
have explained that imagery should also be carefully distinguished from mental
practice; that is, imagery is a specific mental process that can be mentally prac-
tised. However, mental practice does not necessarily involve imagery but can
also refer to other types of mental processes including self-talk and modelling.
The most recent debate addresses the conceptual difference between imagery
type, function and outcome (for a more detailed discussion, see Murphy et al., in
press; Short et al., 2006). The term “imagery type” has been used to describe
both the content of an athlete’s imagery (e.g. imaging oneself perfectly
executing a skill) and the function or purpose that imagery is serving (e.g. skill
refinement) leading to uncertainty among authors. As an illustration, items on
the Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ; Hall et al., 1998) were originally
described as measuring imagery content (Moritz et al., 1996), then later referred
to them as functions (Hall et al., 1998, 2005). Short et al. (2006) noted that
this shift in meaning of the SIQ items has led to the synonymous use of “type”
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and “function”. For example, Martin et al. referred to these as interchangeable
terms in their review of literature and development of an applied model.
Imagery type is mostly referred to as “the function or purpose that imagery is
serving” (1999: 249); but content is alluded to when the authors predict that
cognitive imagery types might serve a motivational function by enabling ath-
letes to focus in competitive settings. Hall (2001) has also explained that
knowing something about the content of an athlete’s imagery does not necessar-
ily indicate what function this imagery is serving. To continue with the above
example, an athlete might describe imaging the perfect execution of a skill in a
competitive situation. Three possible functions of this image are skill refine-
ment, motivation and self-efficacy enhancement. The athlete might be using
the imagery for one, two or all three of these functions. Adding to the confusion
is that other authors have used “type” to refer specifically to the sensory modal-
ity employed (Driediger et al., 2006; Munroe et al., 2000; Munroe-Chandler
et al., 2007). To resolve the conundrum, Murphy et al. (in press) proposed
that imagery type should be reserved for describing the content of an image
(i.e. “what”), whereas imagery function should denote the purpose or reason for
employing the image (i.e. “why”). Finally, imagery outcome should describe the
result of the imagery (e.g. improved skill performance, increased motivation,
higher levels of self-efficacy).
With these definitions in mind, the items of the SIQ would probably be
more appropriately referred to as imagery types that can be used for different
cognitive and motivational functions by athletes (Murphy et al., in press; Short
et al., 2006). We will return to this particular concept later in the chapter
when reviewing literature surrounding the applied model of imagery use. It is
important to point out, however, that researchers should be careful in their
employment of the term “use” when describing athletes’ imagery, because “use”
implies that athletes are deliberately engaging in the strategy when this is not
necessarily the case. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that performers will
experience some amount of imagery in a spontaneous manner (Evans et al.,
2004; Nordin and Cumming, 2005b; Nordin et al., 2006). For this reason,
Nordin and Cumming (2006) favoured terminology such as “imaging” rather
than “use of imagery” when describing dancers’ imagery in the development of
the Dance Imagery Questionnaire (DIQ).
Review of the literature
The early imagery research was dominated by experimental designs comparing
the effectiveness of imagery alone to physical practice, no practice, or varying
combinations of imagery and physical practice, for the acquisition and perform-
ance of motor skills (for reviews, see Driskell et al., 1994; Feltz and Landers, 1983;
Hall, 2001; Jones and Stuth, 1997). Effect sizes reported in the three different
meta analyses carried out on this literature have ranged from small (0.26; Driskell
et al., 1994) to large (0.66; Hinshaw, 1991) in magnitude. These findings suggest
that imagery is an effective means of improving performance, but is less effective
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than physical practice. Several moderators were also identified as influencing
imagery effectiveness to help shed light on previous discrepant findings. Variables
considered as moderators included the type of task being imaged, the experience
level of the performer, the duration and timing of the imagery practice, and the
individual’s ability to generate and control vivid images. Less commonly reported
were field-based imagery interventions specifically designed to enhance athletic
performance. The results of these studies were equivocal, with some reporting
significant improvements compared to a control group (e.g. Grouios, 1992; Study
1 of Hardy and Callow, 1999; Isaac, 1985), while others reported no significant
differences (e.g. Mumford and Hall, 1985; Rodgers et al., 1991), or mixed findings
across performance variables (e.g. Blair et al., 1993; Burhans et al., 1998). Unfor-
tunately, these studies varied greatly in their design, from the duration of the
intervention to the level of athlete involved, making it difficult to draw compar-
isons and pinpoint the reasons underlying the equivocal findings. However,
several authors have raised consistent concerns with the methodology of imagery
intervention studies that may help to understand these results (e.g. Goginsky and
Collins, 1996; Jones and Stuth, 1997; Murphy and Jowdy, 1992). Callow and
Hardy (2005) summarised these concerns as being a failure to take confounding
variables into account (e.g. imagery ability), employing flawed research designs
(e.g. lack of manipulation checks to verify if the participants are imaging as
instructed), the lack of empirically tested theories underpinning the intervention,
and not clearly differentiating the functions of imagery.
Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the number of published cross-
sectional studies, along with a growing number of field-based interventions.
Researchers have examined imagery as part of a mental-skills training package,
and generally found significant improvements to performance and psychological
factors such as the interpretations of the symptoms associated with competition
anxiety (e.g. Hanton and Jones, 1999; Mamassis and Doganis, 2004; Sheard and
Golby, 2006). Performance has been less frequently measured when imagery is
the only mental skill delivered in an intervention. The majority of these studies
have instead focused on the improvements found to self-confidence (e.g. Callow
and Waters, 2005), or related constructs of self-efficacy (e.g. Jones et al., 2002)
and collective efficacy (e.g. Munroe-Chandler and Hall, 2004). When perform-
ance is measured, however, the results have consistently shown the benefits of
using imagery (e.g. Smith et al., 2007). Most promising is the trend for recent
research to carry out methodologically sound and theoretically based interven-
tions. This task has been made much easier thanks to the introduction of two
models to the imagery literature that can be used separately or in conjunction
with each other to guide interventions. Each of these models will now be
discussed in turn.
The applied model of imagery use
The applied model of imagery use (Martin et al., 1999) describes the manner in
which athletes can use imagery to achieve a variety of cognitive, affective and
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behavioural outcomes. The sport situation, the types of imagery used and
imagery ability are considered as three factors that contribute to the effective-
ness of an imagery intervention. At the heart of the model is the notion that
“what you see is what you get”; in other words, imagery content should corres-
pond with the intended outcomes. For instance, Moritz et al. (1996) have
suggested that an athlete who wishes to develop, maintain or regain sport confi-
dence (i.e. function) should image being confident (i.e. content). Furthermore,
the nature of the sport situation (e.g. training, competition and rehabilitation)
should be considered for imagery to have positive effects. To continue with the
above example, an athlete might image being confident during a period of
rehabilitation to regain the confidence lost due to being injured. Finally,
imagery ability will likely influence the impact of an imagery intervention such
that better imagers will benefit more. Altogether, the model proposes that
athletes should use the appropriate type of imagery in the given sport situation
to help them to achieve their goals.
Imagery types
There are five types of imagery mentioned in the model. However, Martin et al.
(1999) recognised that these do not constitute an exhaustive list and further
imagery types may be added as they are identified in the literature. These types
stem from Paivio’s (1985) analytical framework and were conceptualised further
by Hall et al. (1998) while developing the SIQ. Paivio initially proposed that
imagery serves both cognitive and motivational functional roles, with each
operating at specific and general levels. Hall et al. later suggested that motiva-
tional general (MG) imagery was best understood when divided into arousal
and mastery subtypes resulting in the following:
cognitive specific (CS): imagery of sport skills or rehabilitation exercises
(e.g. running style, penalty flick in field hockey).
cognitive general (CG): imagery of strategies, game plans and routines (e.g.
man-to-man defence, give-and-go offence, pre-shot routine).
motivational specific (MS): imagery of specific goals and goal-oriented
behaviour (e.g. achieving a personal best, winning a medal).
motivational general arousal (MGA): imagery of somatic and emotional
experiences (e.g. stress, arousal, anxiety and excitement).
motivational general mastery (MGM): imagery of coping and mastering
challenging situation (e.g. staying focused and positive after making an
error, being confident in an important competition).
Employing the SIQ, it has been consistently found that athletes image all
five types, but tend to report a higher frequency of motivational as compared to
cognitive images (e.g. Cumming and Hall, 2002a; Hall et al., 1998; Moritz et al.,
1996; Munroe et al., 1998; Vadocz et al., 1997). Martin et al. (1999) consider
the imagery types to be functionally orthogonal. That is, athletes might use
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these imagery types alone or in combination with each other. It is important to
point out that, although these labels are intended to reflect imagery functions,
they have been historically explained in terms of what athletes are imaging
(e.g. Hall et al., 1998, 2005; Martin et al., 1999; Munroe et al., 2000). Content
and function were therefore considered as one and the same in the development
of the model, although many authors have now argued that this is not necessar-
ily the case (e.g. Abma et al., 2002; Callow and Hardy, 2001; Hall, 2001; Hall
et al., 1998; Murphy et al., in press; Nordin and Cumming, 2005a, Short et al.,
2002, 2004a, 2006; Vadocz et al., 1997). We will return to this point later in the
chapter when discussing the mixed findings of the applied model to date. For
clarity, we have therefore chosen to separate type and function in our descrip-
tion of the model.
Recent qualitative enquiries in dance (Hanrahan and Vergeer, 2000; Nordin
and Cumming, 2005b), exercise (Giacobbi et al., 2003; Short et al., 2004b),
sport (Calmels et al., 2003) and injury rehabilitation settings (Driediger et al.,
2006; Evans et al., 2006; Vergeer, 2006) suggest that other types of imagery
exist. Body-related images, in addition to those considered to be MGA imagery,
are one such example. These include anatomical images related to posture and
alignment (Hanrahan and Vergeer, 2000; Nordin and Cumming, 2005b),
health- and appearance-related images (Gammage et al., 2000; Giacobbi et al.,
2003; Nordin and Cumming, 2005b), and images of the internal physiological
processes of healing (Driediger et al., 2006; Evans et al., 2006; Hanrahan
and Vergeer, 2000). To illustrate the latter, an injured badminton player
interviewed by Driediger et al. said:
I would try to imagine what the tear looked like and I think about how it
feels and how it’s going to heal and try to think about how it’s coming
together while it’s healing, or during the rehabilitation process.
(2006: 266)
Such healing images are captured on a sub-scale of the Athletic Injury Imagery
Questionnaire-2 (AIIQ-2; Sordoni et al., 2002), and are positively associated
with self-efficacy (Sordoni et al., 2002) and satisfaction with the rehabilitation
experience (Law et al., 2006). Both exercisers and dancers have reported
appearance-related images. For example, female aerobic exercisers interviewed
by Giacobbi et al. said “I imagine myself being toned” and “I see myself losing
weight” (2003: 168). Interestingly, this is the most frequently reported imagery
type by exercisers, and positively associated with self-reported exercise behavi-
our (Gammage et al., 2000; Hausenblas et al., 1999) and behavioural intention
(Rodgers et al., 2001).
There is also growing interest in kinaesthetic imagery, which Callow and
Waters have defined as “imagery involving the sensations of how it feels to
perform an action, including the force and effort involved in movement and
balance, and spatial location (either of a body part or piece of sports equipment)”
(2005: 444–445). Munroe et al. (2000) previously noted that the varsity athletes
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interviewed in their study frequently mentioned kinaesthetic images. Further-
more, an athlete’s ability to kinaesthetically image has been positively associated
with state confidence (Hardy and Callow, 1999; Moritz et al., 1996; Monsma and
Overby, 2004) and negatively associated with the intensity of cognitive anxiety
symptoms (Monsma and Overby, 2004). Finally, Hardy and Callow (1999)
found the combination of visual and kinaesthetic imagery led to greater skill
acquisition and performance benefits than visual imagery alone for expert rock
climbers learning four ten-move boulder problems (Experiment 3). Altogether,
these studies suggest that kinaesthetic imagery is a particularly important type of
imagery for athletes. Interestingly, Martin et al. (1999) suggested that kinaes-
thetic images (and other sensory modalities) might eventually be considered in
the model, but felt that there was insufficient evidence at that time to warrant
inclusion. Since the model has been published, Callow and Waters have carried
out a single-subject multiple baseline study with three male professional flat-race
horse jockeys to examine whether kinaesthetic imagery could improve state sport
confidence. In line with their rationale that kinaesthetic imagery could serve as a
form of performance accomplishment, a significant increase in state sport confi-
dence was found for two of the three participants following a kinaesthetic
imagery intervention. The authors consequently concluded that images, which
match the actual sensations of successful performance, could be a useful tool for
enhancing confidence.
Other images worth mentioning are those of an artistic nature, which are
relevant to aesthetic sport athletes whose artistic ability is judged in competition.
Professional dancers interviewed by Nordin and Cumming (2005b) reported
images of characters and roles including behaviours, emotions and qualities that
they might want to emphasize in a piece. The role and movement quality
imagery sub-scale of the DIQ measures these images along with expression,
movement quality (e.g. harmony between movements and music) and metaphors
(i.e. images depicting actions and sensations that are not necessarily objectively
possible). In a follow-up study, Nordin and Cumming (in press, a) found that
aesthetic sport athletes (e.g. artistic gymnasts, equestrian vaulters) reported using
role and movement imagery, but not to the same extent as dancers sampled
in the same study. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that imagery related to
aesthetic expression could provide the basis of an imagery intervention aimed at
enhancing the artistry of aesthetic sport athletes. Metaphorical images may also
be helpful in communication, to identify and express thoughts and emotions,
assist focus and concentration, maintain confidence and aid relaxation (Murphy
et al., in press). Furthermore, direct effects on performance have been found
following the use of metaphorical imagery with dancers. Sawada et al. (2002)
carried out an intervention with 60 children, and showed that children who
received metaphorical instructions performed a short dance sequence more accu-
rately than children who had received either verbal descriptions of the move-
ments or no instruction. Improvements to the performance of certain dance
moves have also been reported following a metaphorical imagery intervention
with adult dancers (Hanrahan and Salmela, 1990; Hanrahan et al., 1995).
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Imagery functions
There are a multitude of reasons why athletes engage in imagery (e.g. Munroe
et al., 2000; Nordin and Cumming 2005a; for reviews, see Murphy and Martin,
2002; Murphy et al., in press). The majority of these fall broadly into the cogni-
tive and functional roles proposed by Paivio (1985). Cognitive reasons include
learning and improving performance, memorising, planning and strategising, and
improving understanding. When examined at the specific and general levels, the
CS function pertains specifically to skill development (i.e. to work on technique
and to make changes) and performance (i.e. to perform as well as possible in any
given situation), whereas the CG function similarly describes strategy develop-
ment and execution (Munroe et al., 2000). Motivational reasons include enhancing
motivation, changing thoughts and emotions, and regulating physiological
responses. Munroe et al. described the MS function as being used by athletes to
understand what it takes to achieve process and outcome goals. The MGA func-
tion pertains to the regulation of emotions and activation levels (e.g. to psych up,
maintain composure, or relax). Finally, the MGM function is used to stay focused,
confident, positive and mentally tough (i.e. work through difficult situations
and deal with adversity). Healing reasons have also emerged as a function in the
injury-rehabilitation literature (Calmels et al., 2003; Driediger et al., 2006; Nordin
and Cumming, 2005b). For example, the athletes interviewed by Driediger
et al. reported using imagery to aid in the healing process, for pain management
and the prevention of injury. In addition, dancers interviewed by Nordin and
Cumming (2005b) used imagery to rejuvenate and revitalise as well as for spiritual
healing. Finally, artistic reasons for using imagery may be to communicate with
one’s audience, to add meaning, to enhance the quality of one’s movements and
to choreograph a sequence or routine (Murphy et al., in press).
Imagery outcomes
The model suggests three categories of outcomes that can be achieved through
imagery: (a) facilitating the learning and performance of skills and strategies;
(b) modifying cognitions; and (c) regulating arousal and competitive anxiety.
Moreover, the content of an athlete’s images will systematically determine what
result has been achieved (Short et al., 2006). Recall that the applied model is
based on the premise that imagery type will lead to a harmonious outcome. For
example, a figure skater trying to improve their technique of a salchow jump
(CS imagery function) may image the successful take-off and landing of the
jump (CS imagery content). If effective, the result of such imagery would then
be qualitative improvements in performance and increased jump consistency
(CS outcome). Research has generally supported this idea by demonstrating
that skill-based images will lead to improved skill performance (e.g. Durand
et al., 1997; Hall et al., 1994; Nordin and Cumming, 2005a; for a review, see
Driskell et al., 1994; Hall, 2001), and are more effective than goal-based
imagery for performance improvements of beginner runners (MS content;
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Burhans et al., 1988), arousal-based imagery for a strength task (MGA content;
Murphy et al., 1988), or confidence-based imagery for a sit-up task (MGM
content; Lee, 1990).
Skill-based images have also resulted in outcomes beyond those predicted by
the “what you see is what you get” principle (e.g. Anshel and Wrisberg, 1993;
Calmels et al., 2004b; McKenzie and Howe, 1997; Martin and Hall, 1995;
Nordin and Cumming, 2005a). Imaging the “perfect stroke” led to significantly
greater voluntary practice time of a golf-putting task (inferring greater motiva-
tion) than either the performance + outcome imagery group or the no-imagery
control group (Martin and Hall, 1995). Anshel and Wrisberg (1993) found that
tennis players’ imagery of performing mechanically correct serves resulted in
increased somatic (i.e. heart rate) and cognitive arousal. Both McKenzie and
Howe (1997) and Nordin and Cumming (2005a) reported increased self-efficacy
following imagery of dart throws. Finally, the CS sub-scale of the SIQ has
been positively associated with increased trait confidence (Abma et al., 2002)
and facilitative interpretations of the symptoms associated with cognitive and
somatic anxiety (Fish et al., 2004).
Less research attention has been given to images of strategies, routines and
game plans. Indeed, when the applied model was initially published, evidence in
support of CG imagery was mainly anecdotal in nature or case study reports
(e.g. Fenker and Lambiotte, 1987; White and Hardy, 1998). There have been a
few studies to show that imagery of skills sequenced together led to improve-
ments in the performance of that sequence when compared to a control group
(Blair et al., 1993; Hardy and Callow, 1999). Only recently have interventions
been undertaken to examine strategy-based images, and this research has led to
mixed findings. Jordet (2005) used a single-case intervention design to show the
effects of an intervention consisting of skill and strategy images with elite foot-
ball players. He found improved exploratory visual activity for two out of the
three players involved. By comparison, imaging the execution of football strat-
egies did not lead to significantly improved implementation of these strategies in
game situations for players on an Under-13 team (Munroe-Chandler et al.,
2005). The CG sub-scale of the SIQ has also been positively associated with
state and trait sport confidence (Abma et al., 2002; Callow and Hardy, 2001).
With respect to goal-based images, Martin and Hall (1995) found that
imaging “a perfect stroke” combined with “the golf ball rolling across the green
and into the hole” (performance + outcome imagery) led to significantly greater
number of balls holed compared to imaging the perfect stroke only or control
group. Moreover, participants in this condition also set higher goals for them-
selves and adhered more to their training regime, but did not demonstrate
greater voluntary practice behaviour. MS imagery has also been positively asso-
ciated with achievement goals (Cumming et al., 2002), state and trait sport
confidence (Abma et al., 2002; Callow and Hardy, 2001; Evans et al., 2004),
and self-efficacy (Mills et al., 2000).
Images of somatic and emotional experiences such as oneself competing in
a race have resulted in measurable physiological changes in heart rate and
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respiration (Gallego et al., 1996; Hecker and Kaczor, 1988). Martin et al. (1999)
explained that MGA images contain necessary information about the physiolog-
ical and emotional response of the performer (termed “response propositions”;
Lang, 1977, 1979) to bring about these measurable increases in activation.
Furthermore, Murphy et al. (1988) found that images of anger and fear prior to a
strength task led to increased reports of feeling anxious, whereas images of being
relaxed were associated with decreased levels of state anxiety intensity in
another study (Murphy and Woolfolk, 1987). The MGA sub-scale of the SIQ,
which describes images of being excited, stressed, psyched-up and anxious, has
been associated with a greater intensity of symptoms associated with cognitive
and somatic anxiety (Monsma and Overby, 2004; Vadocz et al., 1997). Finally,
Cumming et al. (2007) carried out a comparison of different forms of MGA
imagery content (i.e. relaxation images, psyching-up images and competitive
anxiety images), MGM imagery, and a combination of MGA and MGM
imagery (termed “coping imagery” in this study) on heart rate response and self-
reported psychological states. A total of 40 competitive individual sport athletes
imaged five different imagery scripts, delivered in a counter-balanced order,
and describing the immediate moments before performing in a hypothetical
competition. As expected, only imagery scripts that contained somatic response
information (MGA psyching up imagery, MGA anxiety imagery and coping
imagery) led to significant increases in heart rate and anxiety intensity.
Similar to the above imagery types, associations have been found between
MGA images and mastery cognitions. Certain SIQ studies report MGA imagery
to be positively associated with state sport confidence (Moritz et al., 1996), trait
sport confidence (Abma et al., 2002) and self-efficacy (Mills et al., 2000). Other
studies, however, have found a negative relationship to exist (Callow and
Hardy, 2001; Monsma and Overby, 2004). On the surface, these contradictory
findings may seem a little puzzling. However, they do make sense from the point
of view of Bandura’s (1997) self-efficacy theory. More specifically, MGA
imagery may fulfil a source of self-efficacy called “physiological and affective
states” by enabling individuals to experience optimal activation levels. If the
content of imagery does not match the desired activation level, self-efficacy may
lower. In support, Cumming et al. (2007) found that MGA anxiety imagery
resulted in less self-confidence and more debilitative interpretations of symp-
toms associated with pre-competition anxiety than MGA psyching up imagery,
MGM imagery and coping imagery. Lower levels of confidence were also
reported after MGM relaxing imagery. These findings led the authors to suggest
that athletes should be careful to use the aspect of MGA imagery that will lead
to their desired activation level, and images of being anxious in competition
without corresponding feelings of mastery may be problematic for certain ath-
letes. By comparison, combining MGA and MGM content allows the athlete to
simultaneously experience high levels of anxiety and self-confidence. Termed
“confident coping”, Jones and Hanton (2001) have suggested that this psycho-
logical state will enable athletes to view the symptoms associated with
competitive anxiety in a more facilitative manner. Along similar lines, an inter-
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vention combining both MGA and MGM imagery led to lower levels of per-
ceived stress and increased self-efficacy before and during a rock-climbing task
(Jones et al., 2002).
Finally, numerous SIQ studies have shown the MGM sub-scale to be
positively associated with state sport confidence (Callow and Hardy, 2001; Fish
et al., 2004; Monsma and Overby, 2004; Mortiz et al., 1996; Vadocz et al., 1997),
trait sport confidence (Abma et al., 2002), self-efficacy (Beauchamp et al., 2002;
Mills et al., 2000) and collective efficacy (Shearer et al., 2007). Experimentally
designed research has also found that mastery images lead to increased self-efficacy
(Feltz and Riessinger, 1990) and state confidence (Cumming et al., 2007), whereas
intervention studies have reported improvements to state confidence (Callow
et al., 2001) and collective efficacy (Munroe-Chandler and Hall, 2004). More
recently, Nicholls et al. (2005) carried out an MGM imagery intervention to
enhance the flow experiences of high-performance golfers. Employing a single-
subject replication reversal design, three of the four participants reported
increased intensity of flow states, and all four reported increased frequency of flow
states and percentage of successful golf shots, albeit these changes were relatively
small in nature. Other studies have also shown a direct association between MGM
imagery and better performance (Beauchamp et al., 2002; Nordin and Cumming,
2005a; Short et al., 2002), lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety intensity
(Cumming et al., 2007; Monsma et al., 2004), and more facilitative anxiety
interpretations (Cumming et al., 2007).
Altogether, there seems to be some amount of congruence between the
content of athletes’ images and the outcome of their imagery that is consistent
with the applied model’s “what you see is what you get” principle. There is
growing evidence, however, which shows that imagery will offer more results
beyond what meets the eye (Nordin and Cumming, 2005a). More specifically, a
number of investigations have found that one imagery type can be related to
several outcomes (Callow and Waters, 2005; Calmels et al., 2003; Evans et al.,
2004; Nicholls et al., 2005; Nordin and Cumming, 2005a, in press b; Short et al.,
2002, 2004a). The relationships between different imagery types and outcomes
therefore appear more complex than initially considered by the applied model. If
imagery type were replaced by function, however, the predictions would likely
hold more consistently. Instead of content systematically determining the out-
comes, it would instead be the function of that imagery. To explain their find-
ings, for example, Callow and Hardy (2001) stated that it might not be what is
being imaged that influences confidence, but rather the function that imagery is
serving. As long as the imagery is effective, there would then likely be a match
between the athlete’s reason for imaging and the outcome achieved. The chal-
lenge then becomes to select the appropriate content that will serve the
intended function, which is an issue that we will address in the next section.
In addition to the three categories of outcomes outlined, the model could be
expanded to include outcomes related to the imagery process, injury rehabilita-
tion and, unexplored as of yet, artistry and other more aesthetic aspects
of performance. Several studies have already found significant increases in the
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frequency of athletes’ imagery following involvement in an imagery inter-
vention (Callow et al., 2001; Cumming et al., 2004; Cumming and Ste-Marie,
2001; Evans et al., 2004; Munroe-Chandler et al., 2005; Rodgers et al., 1991).
Imagery ability has also been found to improve (Calmels et al., 2004b;
Cumming and Ste-Marie, 2001; Rodgers et al., 1991) and imagery sessions
found to be more systematic and detailed (Evans et al., 2004; Rodgers et al.,
1991). With respect to the rehabilitation process, Cupal and Brewer (2001)
found significant improvements in knee strength, rehab anxiety and pain
following a relaxation and guided imagery intervention with patients recovering
from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery. The imagery
content included the physiological processes at work during each stage of recov-
ery (e.g. visualise scar tissue releasing during wall slide), positive emotional
coping responses (e.g. reinterpreting pain as pressure) and different sensory
modalities (e.g. visual and kinaesthetic).
Personal meaning
It is now well acknowledged that a particular image can serve one or multiple
functions depending on the meaning the image holds for the athlete (e.g.
Callow and Hardy, 2001; Hall et al., 1998; Nordin and Cumming, in press b;
Short et al., 2002, 2004a, 2006; Vadocz et al., 1997). Indeed, Martin et al.
(1999) borrowed the concept of meaning from Ahsen’s (1984) triple-code
model to explain that the same image can be interpreted differently across
athletes and elicit different individual reactions. As we will see later in the
chapter, the concept of personal meaning also plays a similar role in Lang’s
bioinformational theory (1979) as one of three types of propositional informa-
tion (i.e. meaning propositions). Martin et al. illustrated the point with the
findings of Hale and Whitehouse (1998) who asked football players to imagine
taking a potentially game-winning penalty kick with either a “pressure” or
“challenge” appraisal emphasis. Those participants in the challenge situation
reported their anxiety symptoms to be more facilitative than participants in the
pressure situation. Responses made by participants in interviews or open-ended
questionnaires at the completion of intervention studies also reinforce the idea
that the imagery experience is a highly personal one. For example, a golfer
participating in an MGM imagery study (Nicholls et al., 2005) described his
images as serving an MGA function (e.g. ease worries, decrease tension) in
addition to the intended MGM (e.g. feel more confident and focused). For
similar reasons, Short et al. (2004a) suggested that researchers should verify
with their participants that the perceived image function is consistent with the
research or intervention goals. Furthermore, when designing interventions, the
imagery function should first be considered (Short and Short, 2005). Imagery
content could then be decided upon in conjunction with the athlete to ensure
that the images are serving the desired function. Moreover, Short and Short
advised that the images selected are viewed as facilitative in manner. For
instance, an elite rugby union player described certain MGA and MGM as
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debilitative and intrusive to his performance by creating inappropriate activa-
tion levels (Evans et al., 2004). He instead preferred to use technical and tacti-
cal images to achieve motivational outcomes, including increased motivation
and self-confidence.
Sport situation
Of all the components included in the applied model, the least researched is
the sport situation. Martin et al. (1999) reviewed preliminary evidence demon-
strating that the use of imagery as a pre-competition strategy led to greater
performance compared to a control group. They also pointed out that these
studies did not include a manipulation check so it is unknown how much or
what types of imagery were used by the participants. In the experiment subse-
quently carried out by Cumming et al. (2007), types of pre-competition imagery
were compared, but actual performance was not assessed in case certain types
had a debilitative effect on the performer. They found that images resulting in
appropriate activation levels and psychological states for the athlete (MGA
psyching up imagery, MGM imagery and coping imagery) led to greater predic-
tions of performance compared to those that did not (MGA anxiety imagery,
MGA relaxing imagery). The next step would be to carry out intervention
research that is particular to pre-competition as well as the other timeframes
outlined in the applied model (i.e. training and rehabilitation). Further con-
texts have also been suggested, including exercise situations (Hall, 2001) and
phases of the competitive season (Cumming and Hall, 2002a), which can also
be considered when planning an intervention study.
Imagery ability
According to the applied model, the effectiveness of an imagery intervention
will be dependent on the athletes’ ability to image. Research supports this asser-
tion by demonstrating that individuals higher in imagery ability show greater
performance improvements following a skill-based imagery intervention (e.g.
Goss et al., 1986; Rodgers et al., 1991). McKenzie and Howe (1997) found that
imaging ten dart throws across 15 treatment days led to enhanced self-efficacy
only for participants with superior imagery ability. Furthermore, Vergeer and
Roberts (2006) found that flexibility gains were positively associated with
reports of imagery vividness. As a more complete test of the model, Gregg et al.
(2005) examined whether ease of imaging influenced the relationship between
different types of imagery and track-and-field performance over an indoor
season. Visual and kinaesthetic imagery ability significantly predicted greater CS
imagery use, but the interaction between CS imagery and imagery ability failed
to predict an athlete’s best performance of the season.
Evidence in support of imagery ability as a moderating variable has recently
been found in a study with exercisers (Cumming, in press). Concerns have been
raised by Gregg et al. (2005) and others (e.g. Martin et al., 1999) that typically
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employed imagery ability questionnaires, such as the revised version of the
Movement Imagery Questionnaire (MIQ-R; Hall and Martin, 1997), are not
designed to assess the motivational aspects of imagery. Cumming therefore added
companion scales assessing ease of imaging to the Exercise Imagery Inventory
(EII; Giacobbi et al., 2005). Similar to the SIQ and DIQ, the EII normally
assesses the frequency with which individuals use different imagery types
(i.e. appearance-health imagery, exercise technique imagery, exercise self-efficacy
imagery and exercise feelings imagery). Of these types, it was found that exercis-
ers’ abilities to create appearance-health images moderated the relationship
between imagery frequency and leisure-time exercise, coping efficacy and sched-
uling efficacy. This interaction revealed that exercisers who imaged their appear-
ance and health more frequently and found it easier to see and feel these images,
also tended to exercise more. Moreover, these individuals also had stronger
beliefs about their ability to cope with challenges and difficulties related to exer-
cising, and scheduling exercise sessions. Consequently, there is now some exist-
ing evidence to suggest that imagery ability is a moderating variable for imagery
types beyond that of skill-based ones and outcomes in addition to performance.
Although more testing is needed, particularly with valid and reliable measures
of imagery ability, the findings do reinforce recommendations made to include
strategies for improving imagery ability when planning imagery interventions.
Summary
The introduction of the applied model to the sport imagery literature has
sparked an abundance of studies, both cross-sectional and experimental in
nature, to test the various predictions made. In addition to building a literature
surrounding the model, other positive consequences can be noted in terms of
the methodological concerns previously outlined. Not only are the studies
guided by a theoretically and empirically based model, but have also tended to
include measures to screen for possible confounding variables and manipulation
checks to verify that the intervention is being received and carried out as
intended. The model has therefore achieved its main aim of being a useful guide
for both research and applied work. Our review of this literature has led us to
suggest that the predictions made by the model are also generally supported.
However, there is a need to clearly distinguish imagery type from function, with
image-meaning bridging the gap between concepts. Researchers should there-
fore consider different ways of establishing the perceived imagery function and
to monitor whether these perceptions change throughout the intervention.
This recommendation is particularly important to consider when there is not an
obvious congruence between what the athlete is imaging and why. There is also
enough evidence to now include additional imagery types and outcomes in the
model. Others (Murphy et al., in press) have further commented on individual
difference variables (e.g. age, gender, participation level, motivational orienta-
tions, etc.) and other moderators (e.g. duration and amount, deliberateness,
direction, perspective) that may also be considered. Finally, the applied model
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has been generally examined in injury rehabilitation, exercise, sport and dance.
However, there has been limited work done so far in specific situations
(e.g. during training, prior to competition) and more research is encouraged in
this respect.
The PETTLEP model of motor imagery
The PETTLEP model of motor imagery (Holmes and Collins, 2001, 2002) is
founded on the notion that a functional equivalence exists between imagery
and motor performance. That is, similar brain structures to those that coordi-
nate overt actions (i.e. motor structures) are also activated during imagery of
actions (e.g. Ehrsson et al., 2003; Fadiga et al., 1999). Moreover, it is this simi-
larity in neural activity when one performs imagery practice that provides the
mechanism through which imagery functions to modulate subsequent motor
and sports performance. Importantly, it has been argued that the effectiveness of
an imagery intervention is determined by how well these same brain areas are
activated through imagery (Holmes and Collins, 2002). In light of this proposed
mechanism, the PETTLEP model of motor imagery was designed as a tool that
sport scientists could use to heighten the equivalence between imagery and
actual performance and thus improve the effectiveness of imagery interventions.
The acronym “PETTLEP” represents the seven elements of the model:
Physical, Environment, Task, Timing, Learning, Emotion and Perspective. The
fundamental premise behind each element is the same: in order to maximise
functional equivalence and therefore optimise the impact of an imagery inter-
vention, the imagery performed should match actual performance as closely as
possible. The “physical” element is concerned with the extent to which the
physical nature of imagery reflects that of actual performance. For example, a
batsman in cricket who is mentally practising a shot should assume a character-
istic posture, wear typical sportswear, hold appropriate equipment and image the
physical responses that would occur in real performance of the skill. The
“environment” element refers to the physical environment that the magery is
performed in being identical (if possible) to the actual performance environ-
ment. Moreover, the imagery environment should mimic a personalised and
multisensory experience akin to the real-life performance of any given indi-
vidual. In continuing with the above example, imagery of a cricket shot should
ideally be performed on an individual’s actual cricket pitch – or, if this is not
possible, photographs or DVDs could be used as an alternative. The “task”
element suggests that the imaged task should correspond as closely as possible to
the real task. That is, the specific content of imagery performed should specifi-
cally mimic actual performance. For example, a cricket player should mentally
practise the type of shots they would typically play in a match, thus reflecting
their current level of performance or stage of learning. The “timing” element
conveys that imagined performance should be temporally matched to the same
speed as actual performance (i.e. real-time). The “learning” element suggests
that an individual’s imagery practice should be analogous to their current stage
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of learning and subsequently acclimatise as skill level develops. The “emotion”
element suggests that imagery should incorporate all emotions and arousal
typically experienced during actual performance. However, it has been since
noted that any negative thoughts that could be detrimental should be replaced
with positive ones (Smith et al., 2007). The “perspective” feature suggests that
imagery should be performed from a visual perspective that represents the
view taken by the athlete when actually performing the task (i.e. internal or
external). While there has been debate in the literature on the benefits of one
perspective over another (e.g. Cumming and Ste-Marie, 2001; Hardy and
Callow, 1999), within the PETTLEP model both perspectives are considered to
access appropriate motor representations and potentially strengthen the neural
network. Moreover, sports performers may find that the perspective taken during
imagery practice may be contingent on the demand of the task being imaged. It
has previously been demonstrated that taking an external perspective can be
more beneficial when form or body coordination is an important feature of the
to-be-learned movement. Conversely, it is more advantageous to use an internal
perspective for open skills that depend heavily on perception for their successful
execution (Hardy and Callow, 1999). Therefore, Holmes and Collins (2001)
suggested that the imagery perspective employed should be appropriate for both
the individual and the task.
In accordance with bioinformational theory (Lang, 1977, 1979, 1985), the
PETTLEP model also advocates that, for imagery to be optimally effective, each
element should include stimulus (i.e. information concerning the stimuli in the
environment), response (i.e. the cognitive, behavioural and affective responses
of an individual to given stimulus in an environment) and meaning proposi-
tions (i.e. the perceived importance of the behaviour). By including these
propositions into imagery practice, the correspondence (or functional equiva-
lence) to physical practice should increase which, in turn, should raise the
effectiveness of an imagery intervention at facilitating performance.
Evidence
Following the publication of the PETTLEP model, there has been a growing
endeavour to empirically test the assumptions made. To this end, experimental
studies have proved valuable for affirming the viability of the model as an
effective tool to raise the functional equivalence that imagery has with perform-
ance and, in doing so, increase the effectiveness of imagery interventions deliv-
ered in sporting settings. More specifically, consistent evidence has been
provided which highlights that imagery more functionally equivalent to actual
performance will have more pronounced effects on subsequent sports perform-
ance compared to less functionally equivalent imagery (Callow et al., 2006;
Smith and Collins, 2004; Smith and Holmes, 2004; Smith et al., 2001, 2007).
Clear and consistent evidence has demonstrated that manipulating the
“physical” and “environment” elements of the model has beneficial effects on
sports performance (Smith and Collins, 2004; Smith et al., 2001, 2007). For
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example, one experiment from Smith et al. (2007) involved implementing a
six-week imagery intervention with university-level hockey players where the
physical and environment components of the PETTLEP model were manipu-
lated. Three different intervention groups used imagery to practise ten hockey
penalty flicks every day for six weeks. Each group either: (a) wore hockey
clothes while standing on a hockey pitch (i.e. physical + environment),
(b) wore hockey clothes while standing at home (i.e. physical only) or (c) wore
normal clothes while sitting down at home (i.e. no PETTLEP elements). The
control group did not perform imagery but instead read hockey literature. The
post-test results showed that the most functionally equivalent form of imagery
practice (i.e. wearing hockey clothes while standing on a hockey pitch) scored
significantly higher compared to a less functionally equivalent forms of imagery
practice (i.e. wearing hockey clothes while standing at home or wearing normal
clothes at home). All forms of imagery practice resulted in significantly higher
performance scores compared to control. These data support the assumption
that to maximise performance facilitation from imagery interventions, the phys-
ical and environment aspects of the model should be delivered in a functionally
equivalent manner.
Ramsey et al. (2007) manipulated the “emotion” element of the model using
a sample of university football players. In their study, participants took ten
penalties prior to and following a six week intervention period. Two imagery
interventions, which differed only in their emotional content, were compared
to a control group who performed a stretching routine. Each group performed
their intervention four times per week with approximately half the sessions
performed on their football pitch and the other half at home. At post-test, both
imagery groups scored significantly higher points than the control group, but no
significant differences were observed between the two imagery groups. These
particular findings again support the contention that using PETTLEP-based
imagery practices is an effective way to design performance-facilitating imagery
interventions in sport. However, the data do not support the model’s proposal
that increasing functional equivalence through the inclusion of emotions felt
during real-life performance has any beneficial effect on sports performance.
However, it should be noted that the authors recognised that the testing
environment for the experiment was not a competitive live-match atmosphere.
Consequently, the inclusion of competitive emotions in one of the imagery
interventions may not have resulted in additional benefits to performance due
to the lack of actual competitive emotions felt during the post-test session. A
tentative proposal is offered by Ramsey et al. that elements of the model may
function differently in training and competition. However, this needs to be
empirically tested and is an interesting area for future research.
The studies outlined above measured the effect on sports performance of
individual elements of the PETTLEP model or, in some cases, combinations of
different elements. Investigating all seven elements together, Smith et al. (2007;
Experiment 2) compared two imagery groups to a physical practice group and a
no-imagery control on the performance of a Full Turning Straight jump on a
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gymnastics beam. The imagery groups either performed: (a) imagery consisting
of all seven elements of the model, or (b) imagery using a written script that
included descriptive information about the environment and task (i.e. stimulus
propositions). Each group performed their task three times per week for six
weeks. The results demonstrated that the physical practice group and the
PETTLEP imagery group performed better than the other two groups in the
post-test. Additionally, no differences were found between the physical practice
group and PETTLEP imagery group.
Summary
Altogether, there is growing evidence confirming the predictions made by the
PETTLEP model. The central focus of these findings has suggested that the
PETTLEP model of motor imagery is an effective tool for designing performance-
facilitating imagery interventions in sport. Furthermore, the majority of evidence
is consistent with the model’s proposal that more functionally equivalent imagery
interventions provide more compelling performance-facilitation effects compared
to imagery interventions less functionally equivalent with performance. A main
strength of the model is that it is underpinned by robust neuroscientific evidence
and a clearly articulated mechanism for the observed performance effects from
imagery practices. However, the model is still relatively new and has not yet been
widely tested. We encourage researchers to continue testing each element of the
model, in isolation and in combination with other elements. In this way, indi-
vidual element characteristics could be discerned as well as the interactive effects
with other elements of the model. Such findings may reveal that certain elements
are more important to manipulate than others to achieve the specific desired
outcome (e.g. improved performance, increased self-efficacy and modified inter-
pretations of anxiety).
A further important future development for the PETTLEP model would be for
testing to take place in a variety of settings with a mixture of populations. Not
only is the model relevant for a variety of sporting environments with athletes of
differing levels of ability, but also clinical and rehabilitative populations. The
latter setting may include patients who have lost function in limbs and need
recovery or clinicians who aim to develop motor expertise. In addition to these
future developments, some limitations of the model should be recognised. Even
though evidence has been presented showing performance benefits following the
inclusion of all seven PETTLEP elements (Smith et al., 2007; Experiment 2), it
may not always be feasible to do so. For instance, sick or injured athletes who use
imagery as a substitute for training sessions they cannot complete may find it diffi-
cult to satisfy the “physical” and “environment” elements of the model. As a com-
promise, these athletes could hold relevant sporting equipment during their
imagery practices and incorporate kinaesthetic feelings but be unable to adopt the
physical position. In addition, athletes may use imagery to supplement training
when they cannot make it to the sports facilities. In this instance, when the
“environment” cannot be manipulated, the athletes might make use of pictures/
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video clips of the venue as well as to focus more so on the other PETTLEP
elements to optimise functional equivalence.
Implications for professional practice
Our review of the literature has revealed that researchers are taking heed of
previous recommendations to improve the methodology of imagery studies and
adopt testable frameworks to guide their work. While this is now becoming the
norm for studies published over the past five years or so, there are still exceptions
slipping through the net. Rather than highlight the weak studies, we will instead
emphasise elements of good practice evident in the literature with the hopes
that these become standard among imagery researchers. Goginsky and Collins
(1996) have also made a detailed list of recommendations for the interested
reader to consider when planning their own research design.
Screening measures
Measures are often given prior to the commencement of an imagery inter-
vention to provide researchers with information about their participants’ previ-
ous experience with and knowledge of imagery as an intervention technique.
Athletes’ perceptions of imagery are important to consider because they are less
likely to image when they do not perceive it as being relevant to improving their
performance or competing effectively (Cumming and Hall, 2002a). Information
can therefore be given to participants about the nature of imagery and the
typical benefits received. Moreover, athletes with low imagery abilities are also
less likely to benefit from an intervention. Assessing their general ability to
image may reveal that training exercises are necessary before the intervention
is given. The majority of researchers have shown a preference for using the
MIQ-R, and applied the criteria of scoring at least a 16 (i.e. images are neither
easy or difficult; Callow et al., 2001, 2006; Smith and Collins, 2004) on both the
visual and kinaesthetic sub-scales to indicate adequate imagery ability. Others
have used more stringent criteria of scoring at least 20 (i.e. images are somewhat
easy to see or feel; Short and Short, 2005; Short et al., 2002). An alternative
measure is the Vividness of Movement Imagery Questionnaire (VMIQ; Isaac
et al., 1986), with researchers using the criteria of scoring under 72 (Hardy and
Callow, 1999; Smith and Holmes, 2004). Researchers have also administered
the SIQ to examine athletes’ frequency of imaging (Cumming et al., 2004;
Evans et al., 2004). However, it is important to point out that the original
version of this questionnaire does not assess ability unless certain dimensions are
added (e.g. ease of imaging, vividness, controllability; see Cumming, in press;
Nordin and Cumming, in press b).
As far as we know, research has yet to establish whether a particular score on
the MIQ-R and VMIQ does indeed indicate that a participant will benefit from
the intervention, and would suggest this to be valuable line of enquiry for future
research. Moreover, we would like to encourage researchers to carefully consider
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whether the information gained from these measures will be appropriate for the
nature of the intervention given. Goginsky and Collins (1996) raised a similar
point by asking researchers to consider whether the imagery questionnaires are
appropriate to the task. If the intended intervention will focus on motivational
images, for example, it might be more enlightening to use the Motivational
Imagery Ability Measure for Sport (MIAMS; Gregg and Hall, 2006) or the SIQ
with added imagery ability dimensions. They also suggested that the task being
imaged might demand a particular type of imagery ability that cannot be appro-
priately measured with currently established questionnaires. Researchers have
consequently developed study-specific measures to use alongside questionnaires
that have previously been validated (e.g. Cumming and Ste-Marie, 2001).
Finally, these screening measures can also be re-administered at the end of the
intervention to examine changes in the imagery process. No study has yet
examined, for example, whether an athlete’s ability to create motivational or
emotional images improves with experience.
Manipulation checks
Because imagery is not an observable behaviour, it is important to have docu-
mented evidence that participants are engaging in the intervention (Goginsky
and Collins, 1996). Manipulation checks are now more commonly employed
during and at the completion of an intervention to verify that the imagery is
being used as intended. In certain interventions, athletes have also been encour-
aged to modify the imagery content to suit their individual needs and note the
changes made (e.g. Munroe-Chandler et al., 2005). These manipulation checks
are normally designed specifically for the needs of a particular study, but some
researchers have also administered validated questionnaires such as the full
SIQ (Callow et al., 2001; Evans et al., 2004) or a shortened version (Munroe-
Chandler et al., 2005). Field-based interventions will often ask participants to
report on their imagery perspective, ease of imaging, use of imagery as outlined
in script, number of imagery sessions completed, and perceived effectiveness of
the imagery (Callow and Waters, 2005; Callow et al., 2006; Cumming and
Ste-Marie, 2001; Munroe-Chandler et al., 2004, 2005; Ramsey et al., 2007).
Imagery diaries monitor participants’ use of imagery throughout an intervention
(Callow and Waters, 2005; Cumming et al., 2004; Ramsey et al., 2007;
Shambrook and Bull, 1996; Smith et al., 2001). Participants may be asked to
note difficulties that they encounter during imagery or use the diary as a self-
monitoring strategy to promote adherence to the intervention. Social validation
checks are also employed to verify whether procedures were acceptable to the
participant and if they were satisfied with the results (Hanton and Jones, 1999;
Jordet, 2005). Similarly, post-intervention interviews are used to gain a more
in-depth account of the participants’ view of the intervention (Callow et al.,
2001; Jordet, 2005; Smith et al., 2001). Finally, experimentally designed research
will employ manipulation checks to establish understanding of and adherence
to instructions given, the use of other psychological strategies and demand
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characteristics (e.g. whether participants guessed the true nature of the experi-
ment and acted in accordance with this purpose; Feltz and Riessinger, 1990;
Goginsky and Collins, 1996; Martin and Hall, 1995; Nordin and Cumming,
2005a; Ramsey et al., in press; Taylor and Shaw, 2002).
Training exercises
Researchers have employed training exercises prior to the commencement of an
intervention to develop the imagery abilities of participants (e.g. Callow et al.,
2001; McKenzie and Howe, 1997), to clarify the difference between internal
and external imagery perspectives (e.g. Blair et al., 1993), or to introduce the
participants more generally to the concept of imagery (e.g. Callow and Waters,
2005). Callow and Waters (2005) have used Hardy and Fazey’s (1990) Mental
Rehearsal Programme to first introduce participants to general imagery training,
which was then followed by standardised training in the targeted imagery type
(i.e. kinaesthetic imagery). Others have followed recommendations made by
Lang et al. (1980) to carry out exercises that make participants more aware of
the stimulus and response information in their imagery (Cumming et al., 2007;
Smith and Collins, 2004; Smith and Holmes, 2004). This procedure is based
in bioinformational theory and involves drawing the participants’ attention
towards specific stimulus details of the scene as well as encouraging them to
experience relevant physiological and emotional responses during their imagery.
A similar method to improving imagery ability is to introduce images in layers,
starting with simple images and then adding details or different sensory modali-
ties in sequence. For example, Calmels et al. (2004a) carried out an imagery
intervention to improve the selective attention of three national softball players
while at bat. The intervention involved 28 imagery sessions organised in five
stages describing the successful performance of different batting scenarios
(e.g. balls delivered as curve balls or fast balls). With each stage, the amount
of detail and complexity of the scenario being imaged increased by including
the position of potential runners on different bases and possible distracters
(e.g. weather, noise, unfair umpire). The participants demonstrated improve-
ments in at least two of the three dimensions of selective attention measured
(i.e. effectively integrate many external stimuli at one time, narrow attention
when needed, and make fewer mistakes due to being overloaded by external
stimuli). In another paper, Calmels et al. (2004b) also described significant
improvements in vividness ratings (ranging from 15.8 per cent to 32.3 per cent)
for these players.
Rather than excluding individuals from studies due to their low imagery
ability, imagery exercises may instead provide an opportunity to develop these
abilities to a level where the intervention would be successful. Not only would
participation be maximised, but employing these exercises would also reinforce
to athletes that imagery is a skill that can be developed and refined through prac-
tice. We consequently encourage researchers to incorporate training exercises
when appropriate into their intervention, using theory as a guide. Moreover, the
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nature of these exercises should be reported in papers to make replication pos-
sible in future work. The extent to which exercises enable participants to create
more vivid images has not yet been extensively evaluated. Nor, as mentioned
above, have criteria been established for the necessary level of imagery ability to
be achieved before imagery interventions become successful. Both issues would
be useful lines of future research enquiry for the continued improvement of
imagery interventions.
Individualising the intervention
The possible benefits of individualising the imagery intervention include the
athletes finding the intervention more meaningful, enjoyable and easier to
perform, increased adherence, and continued use of imagery following termina-
tion of the study. Single-subject multiple-baseline designs are a feasible means
to individualising the intervention because: (a) large samples are not necessary;
and (b) design complexity can be reduced (Callow and Hardy, 2005; Callow
et al., 2001). In this design, the intervention is introduced to the different
participants at staggered points of time. If the baselines of all participants
change when the intervention is introduced, then the effects can be attributed
to the intervention. In their study with three professional flat-race horse jockeys,
for example, Callow and Waters (2005) developed five different imagery scripts
in conjunction with each participant.
Action research was recently introduced to the imagery literature by Evans
et al. (2004), and is another means to individualising an intervention with a
small number of participants. They describe the aim of action research as being
to solve day-to-day problems and/or intervene in real-life situations to improve
practice (also see Castle, 1994). It involves a cyclical process of planning,
acting, observing and reflecting with collaboration and feedback occurring
between the researcher and client. The intervention is not predetermined in
advance, but evolves in response to individual needs. Evans et al. highlighted
several advantages of using this design to improve the imagery effectiveness of
an elite rugby union player. They were able to gain detailed insights into the
participant’s use of imagery, particularly certain debilitative aspects of motiva-
tional images and a preference for using cognitive images. Moreover, they were
able to conduct the intervention over 14 weeks of the competitive season,
lending high ecological validity to the study. Finally, feedback was derived from
multiple sources including semi-structured interviews, daily diaries and the SIQ.
It is also possible to individualise group-based research designs. In experi-
ments examining the effect of response propositions on certain outcomes, for
example, participants can be asked to provide stimulus information based on
their own experiences (e.g. Cumming et al., 2007). An alternative approach is
to apply multiple baseline designs to the group level (e.g. Munroe-Chandler and
Hall, 2004; Munroe-Chandler et al., 2005).
In addition to personalising the content of an imagery script, researchers may
also consider the participants’ preferred mode of delivery. For instance, Callow
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and Waters (2005) gave participants the choice of what format they would like
their imagery scripts to be presented in – as either collated in a written booklet
or recorded on audiotape. In our work, we have found that athletes also voice a
preference for who reads out the scripts, the perspective the script is written
from (i.e. first person vs third person), and the tempo, pitch and rhythm of how
the script is read. When video clips are supporting the imagery intervention, it
also likely that participants may favour viewing the clips from a certain
perspective (e.g. sideways, front on) or for the clips to depict a particular person
(e.g. themselves, more accomplished athlete). Finally, it is also worth consider-
ing whether a script is even necessary. It might be the athlete’s preference, for
example, to receive general instructions and advice on the types of response
propositions to base their imagery upon, rather than having a structured script
to follow. For these reasons, we involve the athlete not only in the develop-
ment of the imagery content but also in the finer details of how that imagery is
delivered.
Objective measures of the imagery experience
Because imagery is an internal experience that cannot be directly measured,
researchers tend to rely on the subjective reports of their participants. Although
questionnaires and in-depth interviews are certainly informative and do have
an important place in the research area, they are also limited to images experi-
enced at a conscious level and are subject to some degree of retrospective bias.
Objective measures can add further insights into the imagery experience while
it is occurring and provide useful feedback to the participants. For instance,
Olympic medallist Alex Bauman described timing his imagery of swimming
races:
The best way I have learned to prepare mentally for competitions is to visu-
alize the race in my mind and to put down a split time. The splits I use in
my imagery are determined by my coach and myself, for each part of the
race. For example, in the 200 individual medley, splits are made up for each
50 metres because after 50 metres the stroke changes. These splits are based
on training times and what we feel I’m capable of doing. In my imagery I
concentrate on attaining the splits I have set out to do.
(As quoted in Orlick, 2000: 116)
Within the research context, objective measures will indicate that images are
actually occurring and provide evidence in support of certain theoretical frame-
works. Heart rate, respiration rate and skin conductance are often obtained to
demonstrate a basic tenet of bioinformational theory that vivid images containing
response propositions will result in an actual physiological response (Cumming
et al., 2007; Gallego et al., 1996; Hecker and Kaczor, 1988). Electromyographic
(EMG) and electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings have similarly been used
to test this hypothesis (Smith and Collins, 2004; Smith et al., 2003).
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As the PETTLEP model and the theory of functional equivalence grow in
popularity, imagery researchers would also benefit from using techniques that
are more common to the neurosciences. Indeed, advances in cognitive neuro-
science may aid sport-imagery research to progress from a descriptive stage,
where underlying mechanisms are speculated upon, to an explanatory stage,
where underlying mechanisms can be more clearly discerned. One technique
used to measure brain activity is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Within the context of fMRI, a typical measure is the Blood Oxygen Level
Dependent, or BOLD, response. The BOLD response is based on a physiological
response to brain activation where red blood cells move from a state of oxygena-
tion to deoxygenation during functional activity. At differing levels of oxygena-
tion, the MR signal of blood is different and this difference can be detected by
an MR pulse sequence. Thus, fMRI is not a direct or invasive measure of neu-
ronal activity within the brain, but instead infers brain activity based on levels
of blood oxygenation. An advantage of this technique is that it will indicate
the degree of functional equivalence between imagery and actual movement
by demonstrating common areas of brain activation. Unfortunately, due to
the confined space with a scanner and the importance of maintaining a still
head position, only a limited amount of movement can be performed during
testing. As a result, the majority of fMRI studies investigating imagery to
date have answered fundamental questions in terms of imagery and execution
equivalence. For example, Ehrsson et al. (2003) used fMRI to measure brain
activity during finger, toe and tongue actions. When compared to rest, the same
premotor areas were activated during imagined and executed movements.
Furthermore, the imagery activity was organised in a samatotopic fashion con-
sistent with the motor homunculus. That is, brain activation during imagined
finger, toe and tongue actions corresponded with the location of activation
during actual finger, toe and tongue actions respectively. Hence, not only
were similar motor structures active during imagery, but the activity was also
organised in a similar manner.
The future for imagery research
Our review of the literature suggests a growing evidence base in support of both
the applied model of imagery use and the PETTLEP model. Intertwined in our
review are suggested avenues of future research with respect to predictions made
by both models, and possible elaborations to the applied model. Investigating
the interaction of both models is an obvious next step. The applied model
enables investigators to consider the “why”, “what”, “where” and “when” of the
intervention, whereas the PETTLEP model can specify the “how”. Take, for
example, an intervention to be carried out with novice tennis players to
improve service reception (CS imagery function) during training (sport situ-
ation). The physical and environment elements of PETTLEP can be included
by having participants dressed in their kit, standing on the court and holding
their racket. Furthermore, skill-based images (imagery type) that are performed
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in real-time (timing element) and match the individuals’ current level of
performance (task element) can evolve as further learning (learning element)
takes place. Combining both models in a single intervention should enable
functionally equivalent imagery to be performed that is personally meaningful
to the individual in achieving their goals.
Another logical next step for imagery research is to move beyond healthy
populations into clinical ones. Testament to this idea, a recent study has offered
encouraging findings using imagery training as a restorative tool to assist
patients with chronic spinal cord injury (Cramer et al., 2007). They found that
in participants devoid of voluntary motor control and peripheral feedback,
imagery training improved motor performance and altered brain function. With
this in mind, the applied model has already been proposed for use in rehabilita-
tion and exercise settings (Hall, 2001). Also, as mentioned above, it would be
useful to examine the PETTLEP with a mixture of populations. Consequently,
sport scientists armed with theoretically based models would likely have a great
deal to offer intervention work that is already becoming popular with clinical
populations.
Finally, we have suggested that neuroscientific techniques, such as fMRI,
can help to explain why imagery interventions function to improve sporting
performance. A further important use of fMRI in imagery research is to take
steps towards validating imagery questionnaires. Pen and paper imagery assess-
ments are commonly used – results from which make valuable contributions to
our understanding of imagery–behaviour relations. However, if a more objective
measure, such as brain activity, correlated with questionnaire forms of imagery
indices then this would affirm the viability of questionnaire-based imagery
assessments that are typically used in the field. For example, Amedi et al. (2005;
see also Cui et al., 2007) found a positive correlation between the BOLD
response activity during visual imagery of objects with scores on the Vividness of
Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ; Marks, 1973). This study highlights the
potential capability for brain activity to function as a more objective measure of
one’s imagery abilities in comparison to questionnaire-based assessments.
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... Imagery ability refers to the quality of an individual's imagery [37], which contains two major keys: clarity and control. The clarity and control of the imagery content affect the quality of the imagery [37,40], and the closer the imagery content is to the actual situation, the higher is the imagery quality and ability [26,41]. Sports performance is enhanced through imagery training, and the design of the program, and performance can be judged based on the current performance, expected goal, comparison with the previous level, and error rate [42]. ...
... The literature states that imagery training can modulate athletes' competition imagery ability [37][38][39][40][41][42]; thus, it is assumed that imagery training results in changes in the imagery ability of the fin swimmers. The analysis revealed that the imagery ability of the fin swimmers after imagery training contributed to the improvement of precompetition tactics (+0. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study analyzed the effects of imagery training on athletes’ imagery ability, physical anxiety and athletic performance. This study employed a mixed research approach. Snowball sampling was used to select 55 fin swimmers with imagery training experience and formal competition participation. Basic statistics were obtained, and Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (PPMCC) analysis was performed using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 26.0, and the results were compared with the opinions of three experts and were tested using multivariate validation methods. The results revealed that although imagery training can help athletes improve their performance and significantly reduce their anxiety during the competition, athletes can still make mistakes due to internal and environmental factors and even have negative thoughts that lead to their reduced likelihood of competition participation. By strengthening strategic and technical imagery training, we can help our fin swimmers perform at a higher level, achieve their goals, and improve overall satisfaction with their competition process and performance.
... According to Gregg et al. (2010), motor imagery (MI) is the mental rehearsal of kinaesthetic and/or visual properties of an action, without concomitant execution. Since the last three decades, MI has been shown to substantially facilitate motor (re)learning, skill acquisition and motor performance improvement, as well as to promote functional recovery following motor impairment (Cumming & Ramsey 2009;Guillot & Collet 2008). The effectiveness of MI depends on individual's capacity to form vivid and accurate mental images of specific motor actions (Seiler et al 2015). ...
... Indeed, many studies revealed that individuals with greater imagery ability achieved higher performance improvement than less-skilled counterparts (Goss et al 1986;Robin et al 2007;Robin & Coudevylle 2018). According to Cumming and Ramsey (2009), it therefore seems necessary to screen for kinaesthetic and visual MI abilities to allow better individualizations of imagery interventions. ...
Article
Introduction. Motor imagery (MI) can be defined as the mental simulation of an action without performing it. Its effectiveness can be substantially influenced by imagery ability, and it is currently accepted that three main modalities are used in MI (kinaesthetic imagery, and internal or external visual imageries). In the context of rehabilitation, MI combined with physical therapy is further known to facilitate functional improvements, and promote cortical reorganization and long-term recovery. This study aimed to test the reproducibility and the validity of constructs (internal consistency and factorial structure) of the Movement Imagery Questionnaire-3 Second French version (MIQ-3Sf). Method. The internal consistency as well as the validity of constructs and the test-retest inter-rate reproducibility of the MIQ-3Sf was examined, in 553 participants, for the kinaesthetic and visual items. Results. The composite reliability scores (≥ 0.92) and the intraclass correlation coefficients (> 0.88) for the kinaesthetic, internal visual and external visual imagery subscales revealed satisfactory internal consistency and reproducibility. Moreover, Pearson correlations revealed a strong relationship between the MIQ-3Sf and the MIQ- 3f. Conclusions/Implications. The MIQ-3Sf can be considered as a valid, reliable and useful questionnaire for examining MI ability in the context of rehabilitation. Keywords: Motor imagery, ability, French, questionnaire, rehabilitation
... Today, mass start competition can lead to rivalry between nations and teams (Sandbakk & Tønnessen, 2012). Visualization is one of the skills being devoted more and more attention to within the sport psychology, and is also a way of preparing yourself for the upcoming training or competition (Cumming & Ramsey, 2009;A. M Pensgaard, 2015). ...
Thesis
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Background: The pacing strategy applied by athletes has significant effect on their performance in endurance sports. Although several studies have investigated pacing in different endurance sports, little information is known about pacing strategies in long distance crosscountry (XC) skiing, for both sexes. This master thesis presents a novel approach to investigate what kind of pacing strategy elite and non-elite skiers perform during a long distance XC skiing race, and if different terrain will influence their pacing strategy. We've estimated the skiers lap times on every passed 10 km, uphill and downhill terrain. Method: On the same day 100 XC skiers (50 female and 50 male skiers) completed an individual time trial in a Norwegian national championship, of long distance. Female XC skiers completed a 30 km race, while male XC skiers completed a 50 km in free technique. The trial was 10 km long. Emit Time Station ETS1 recorder split times of number of laps, time used in one chosen uphill terrain and one downhill terrain. Results: Independent of performance level, both groups of female and male XC skiers decrease in average lap times in all measured distances (10 km lap, uphill and downhill terrain) with strong statistical significant p<0.01. Female and male elite group (EG) adopt a more even positive pacing strategy, than female and male non-elite group (NEG). Conclusion: The main findings of the current study were (I) XC skiers employ a general positive pacing on a lap-to-lap basis, independent on terrain, sex and performance level. (II) Non-elite skiers tend to have a fast start with difficulty to optimize even pacing strategy and significant fall in performance. (III) Pacing strategy in uphill terrain reflects overall pacing strategy of the performance. III Sammendrag Bakgrunn: Løpsutviklingen som utholdenhetsidretter har stor innflytelse på prestasjonen. Selv om flere studier har undersøkt løpsutvikling i flere idretter, er det lite informasjon om løpsutviklingen til langdistanse langrennsløpere, og for begge kjønn. Denne masteroppgaven undersøker hva slags løpsutviklingen utøverne adapterer i et langdistanseløp, og om ulike terreng vil påvirke deres løpsutvikling. Vi har gjennomsnitt tid på hver passerte 10 km, tid i motbakke og i utforkjøring. Hensikt: Målet med denne studien var (1) å undersøke forskjellene i løpsutvikling hos utøvere på ulike prestasjonsnivåer (elite og ikke-elite utøvere) i langrenn, hos 50 kvinner og 50 menn på langdistanse renn, fristil. Videre, (2) undersøke hvordan rundetid og ulikt terreng påvirker prestasjonen og hvordan forskjellene mellom to ulike nivåer kan påvirke sluttiden og resultatene. Metode: 100 deltakere, 50 kvinner (25 eliteutøvere og 25 ikke-elite utøvere) og 50 menn (25 eliteutøvere og 25 ikke-elite utøvere) som har gått NM-mesterskap på 30 km og 50 km, fristil. Målinger av rundetid (hver 10 km), tid i motbakke hver runde, og tid i motbakke hver runde Resultat: Uavhengig av prestasjonsnivå, reduserer kvinnelige og mannlige langrennsløpere gjennomsnittstiden i alle målte distanser (10 km runde, motbakke og nedoverbakke) med sterk statistisk signifikant p<0.01. Kvinnelige og mannlige eliteutøvere (EG) gjennomfører en jevnere løpsutvikling enn kvinnelige og mannlige ikke-elite-utøvere (NEG). Konklusjon: De viktigste funnene i den nåvaerende studien var (I) langrennsløpere anvender en positiv løpsutvikling i et runde-til-runde grunnlag, uavhengig av terreng, kjønn og prestasjonsnivå. (II) Ikke-elite skiløpere har en tendens til å ha en rask start med vanskeligheter med å opprettholde en jevn løpsutvikling og har betydelig fall i prestasjon. (III) Løpsutviklingen i motbakke terreng reflekterer løpsutviklingen generelt i løpet. IV Acknowledgements First and foremost I would like to announce a big thank you to my dear supervisor Tor Oskar Thomassen! Congratulation for being an outstanding supervisor another year, and making students believe in ourselves. Thank you for your effort in reading, writing, correcting! Thank you for motivational support and constructive comments. And last but not least, thank you for being inspirational in life and as a role model with your heart for sport. Thank you to Kjell Hines from The Arctic University of Norway for help with data analysis. You were a huge help with statistical representations. Your knowledge about STATA and SPSS have been an important brick for me to learn and understand more statistics. To my Danish genius Rikki: Thank you so much for using several hours of your life helping me in Excel! Don't think I even would be finish with the statistics by now if it weren't for your help. Thank you Pamela and Astrid for reviewing my thesis! Last but not least, I can't thank my boyfriend John Vegard and my loving family enough! Thank you girlfriends and friends for encouraging and cheering on me. You have all supported me through frustration, ups and downs the last year as a student (for now). Thank you for believing in my decisions and me!
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It is assumed that imagined and executed actions are based on similar mechanisms because they take approximately the same amount of time, follow the same motor principles, and involve similar brain areas. In motor imagery and motor execution, internal models (e.g. forward models) are supposed to predict the action consequences on the actor and the environment. The predictive mechanisms in motor imagery were investigated in two series of experiments. In Series 1, cognitive factors and bimanual principles influenced motor imagery and motor execution similarly. In Series 2, deviations from optimal performance were observed in motor imagery and motor execution. However, predictions showed fewer deviations from optimal performance than actual performance, regardless whether predictions were based on motor imagery or motor execution. Further, the action consequences were similarly influenced by expertise in motor imagery and motor execution. The findings strengthen the assumption of similar mechanisms in motor imagery and motor execution. Most likely, a simulation of the action takes place in motor imagery that predicts the action consequences. This prediction may be based on forward models. The observed results enhance the understanding of the mechanisms of motor imagery and contribute to a solid theoretical and empirical basis for applications of motor imagery in mental practice.
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