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This is an electronic version of an article published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology© 2001 Copyright Taylor & Francis; Journal of Applied Sports Psychology is available online at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/10413200.asp This paper supports the contention that the brain stores memories in the form of a central representation that is accessed by both physical preparation and execution and, more importantly, by motor imagery associated with this preparation and execution. Considerable evidence in support of shared central and vegetative structures suggests that sport psychologists should consider more closely aspects of the performer's responses to the physical skill when providing imagery interventions and not rely on "traditional," more clinically orientated, methods of delivery. Many texts provide a schedule of factors and techniques for psychologists, athletes, and coaches to consider but with a limited theoretical explanation of why these factors are the crucial concerns. We, therefore, propose an evidence-based, 7-point checklist that includes: physical, environmental, task, timing, learning, emotional, and perspective elements of imagery delivery highlighting the minimum requirement areas in which sport psychologists should monitor the equivalence to the physical task in order to enhance the efficacy of their practice.
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60 HOLMES AND COLLINS
60
JOURNAL OF APPLIED SPORT PSYCHOLOGY, 13(1): 60–83, 2001
Copyrigh t © 2001 b y the Ass ociation for Adv ancement of Applied Spor t Ps ychology
1041-3 200/01 $12.00 + .00
Manuscript received 2 M ay 1999; Revision submitted 6 November 1999.
This paper forms part of a doctoral thesis and was first presented in March 1998 at the
British Psychological Conference, Brighton, UK.
Address correspondence to Paul S. Holmes, Department of Exercise and Sport Science,
Manchester Metropolitan University, Hassall Road, Alsager, United Kingdom ST7 2HL.
E-mail: p.s.holmes@mmu.ac.uk
The PETTLEP Approach to Motor Imagery:The PETTLEP Approach to Motor Imagery:
The PETTLEP Approach to Motor Imagery:The PETTLEP Approach to Motor Imagery:
The PETTLEP Approach to Motor Imagery:
A Functional Equivalence Model for Sport PsychologistsA Functional Equivalence Model for Sport Psychologists
A Functional Equivalence Model for Sport PsychologistsA Functional Equivalence Model for Sport Psychologists
A Functional Equivalence Model for Sport Psychologists
PAUL S. HO LMES
Department of Exercise an d Sport Science
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
DAVID J. COLLINS
Department of Physical Education, Sport and Leisure Studies
University of Edinburgh, UK
This paper supports the contention that the brain stores m emories in the form of
a central representation that is accessed by both physical preparation and execu-
tion and, more importantly, by motor imagery associated with this preparation
and execution. Considerable evidence in support of shared central and vegetative
structures suggests that sport psychologists should consider more closely aspects
of the performer’s responses to the physical skill when providing imagery inter-
ventions and not rely on “traditional,” more clinically orientated, methods of
delivery. Many texts provide a schedule of factors and techniques for psycholo-
gists, athletes, and coaches to consider but with a limited theoretical explanation
of why these factors are the crucial concerns. We, therefore, propose an evidence-
based, 7-point checklist that includes: physical, environmental, task, timing, learn-
ing, emotional, and perspective elements of imagery delivery highlighting the
minimum requirement areas in which sport psychologists should monitor the
equivalence to the physical task in order to enhance the efficacy of their practice.
61FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
The idea that imaging skill-related movement has beneficial effects on
subsequent overt performance is not a new one and sport psychologists are
as voracious in proposing new techniques as they are in employing motor
imagery. However, in contrast to its ubiquitous use, little has been done in
sport psychology to understand the relationship between the motor image
and the movement it represents, and the way in which this relationship
may be exploited for optimum effect. Our concern with the current state of
theory-based imagery application stems from two areas: (a) from consid-
eration of research design and application, and (b) from theoretical weak-
nesses.
PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT POSITION
Hall, Rodgers, and Barr (1990) reported that athletes have little under-
standing of how to use imagery. They cite as examples the unsystematic
way in which imagery is employed and its use primarily in association
with competition. However, this may well be an indication of the unsys-
tematic application of contrary research findings from a multitude of meth-
odological design combinations (Goginsky & Collins, 1996; Murphy, 1994;
Vealey, 1994) rather than an issue with the athletes’ behavior per se. In
other words, the dearth of coherent and empirically supported advice on
optimum usage may well determine the behavior problems observed.
Hinshaw (1991) supports this criticism through her statements on single
variable, outcome-oriented research rather than the identification and ex-
amination of underlying processes. “As the complex patterns of interre-
lated variables emerge, attempts must be made for their coordination with
relevant physiological and theoretical mechanisms” (Hinshaw, 1991, p.
26).
We are in agreement with Perry and Morris (1995) who state that, aside
from Lang’s (1977, 1979) bio-inform ational theory of emotional imagery,
none of the theories common in the sport psychology literature have been
subjected to rigorous study and therefore do not represent comprehensive
theories based on underlying mechanisms. Is it any wonder then that imag-
ery usage can appear to be inconsistent and slipshod? What we will present,
therefore, is an approach based on fundamental cognitive neuropsychol-
ogy in an attempt to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms
involved in motor imagery. Through this consideration, techniques will be
proffered which may offer a more effective exploitation of this theory. The
paper will propose that, while motor imagery’s effectiveness in improving
62 HOLMES AND COLLINS
performance is clearly multifarious, many of these factors seem to have
fundamental links to the physical task when imagery is successful. Conse-
quently, the theoretical stance taken in this paper may both support and
contradict common practice, but will hopefully also provide an applied
perspective for imagery research in the future.
A NEUROSCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO MOTOR IMAGERY
IN SPORT
The cognitive neuroscience research is drawn from two main areas of
study. The first relates to central and peripheral function during the cogni-
tive steps to action: a preparation phase of intending (cf. Loze, Collins, &
Shaw, 1999), planning and programming, and an execution phase (the term
motor preparation and execution will be used to describe the cognitive
processes which precede and control movement during autonomous overt
performance). The second, research considering the central and peripheral
topology and typology of motor imagery. We define motor imagery as a
force-generating representation of the self in action from a first person
(internal) perspective (Jeannerod, 1997). The primary representational sense
is kinesthesis. However, because any imagined movement and associated
actions will take place in imagined space, there will usually be some asso-
ciated imagery in other sensory modalities, most notably visual. The per-
spective/sensory mode issue will be considered in more detail later.
Fundamentally, if, as this paper will support, motor imagery and motor
preparation and execution are related to the same motor representation sys-
tem (Decety & Grèzes, 1999), then consideration of the two processes and
the extent to which they covary (their functional equivalence), is vital if
motor imagery is to be optimally used as a successful tool in sport psychol-
ogy (see Jeannerod, 1999, for a comprehensive review of such issues). The
fundamental point for applied sport psychology is that, if physical and
mental practice are equivalent, then many of the procedures shown to be
efficacious in physical practice should also be applied in m ental practice
as well.
Of course, by their very nature motor preparation/execution and motor
imagery will have some differences. The former normally leads to non-
consciously controlled, coordinated overt performance. The latter usually
has full efference consciously blocked or largely suppressed at som e level
of the cortico-spinal flow such that overt behavior, if present at all, is mini-
mal and random (cf. Lang, 1979). Similarly, Goldberg (1987, 1992) has
63FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
described a dual premotor system with the lateral pathways controlling
action that is environmentally based and the medial system involved in the
control of memory generated, temporally ordered information, which is
arguably a motor image. Therefore, under current Jeannerodian definitions,
when motor preparation in the pre-execution stage becomes a conscious
process it automatically becomes a motor image of the same action, but is
still part of the same motor representation. Strong support for this conten-
tion comes from deafferentation and amputee studies where action can be
prepared but not executed. For example, Decety and Boisson (1990) have
investigated temporal organization of actual and mentally executed graphic
movement in hemiplegic patients compared to paraplegic and tetraplegic
patients. The brain-injured hemiplegic patients displayed significantly
slower mental duration time for the paralyzed compared to the healthy
represented limb. However, mental movement tim es in the spinal injured
paraplegic and tetraplegic patients were no different to those of normal
subjects. Conceivably, the high level motor processes, presumably sited
cortically, of motor preparation and execution, interact with the represen-
tation for motor imagery and covariance is only reduced when cortical
areas are disrupted.
CENTRAL AND PERIPHERAL FUNCTIONAL
EQUIVALENCE
Central Indices
Considerable evidence in support of the functional equivalence issue is
provided by analysis of the neural mechanisms active during the two pro-
cesses. The technique of following cerebral metabolism by regional cere-
bral blood flow after injection of positron-emitting radiotracers (e.g., 133Xe-
non) has highlighted the motor imagery/motor preparation and execution
topology. Figure 1 identifies a number of active brain structures function-
ally equivalent in motor preparation and execution and motor imagery.
Even the primary motor cortex (Pascual-Leone et al., 1995) has been re-
ported to show attenuated activation during motor imagery conditions. A
significant proportion of cortical area, therefore, shows a pattern of activ-
ity during motor im agery similar to that of actual performance. Specifi-
cally, prefrontal areas, supplementary motor area (SMA), cerebellum and
basal ganglia have all been shown to be active during motor imagery (e.g.,
Ingvar & Philipsson, 1977; Decety & Ingvar, 1990; Decety, Sjoholm,
64 HOLMES AND COLLINS
Figure 1. Schematic of functio nally active brain regions com mon to motor pre paratio n
and exe cution and motor image ry: 1 Anterior supplementary m otor area and 2 Posterio r
inferior primary motor cortex (Step han et al., 1995; Montoya et al., 1998); 3 Cerebellum
(Montoya et al., 1998 ); 4 Frontal lobe (and basal ganglia—no t shown) (D ecety et al.,
1990); 5 Anterior primary motor cortex and 6 Supplementary Motor Area (Deiber et al.,
1991; Roland, 1984).
Ryding, Stenberg, & Ingvar, 1990). While motor im agery was found to
activate various brain regions, a potentially more significant finding was
that brain activity is influenced by the nature of the imaginal task (Jeannerod
& Decety, 1995). For example, task requirements have been shown to pref-
erentially recruit different portions of the SMA (Stephan et al., 1995). These
and other studies provide strong support for comprehensive consideration
of the sport skill being imaged at any given moment in time, matching any
attentional “switches” as the skill proceeds, and modifying imagery scripts
to consider the effects of learning on the task.
What is clear from this research is that the cortical and subcortical areas
active during m otor imagery pertain to neural networks known to be in-
volved in at least the early stages of motor control (Decety, 1996b). This
supports the argument for common neural mechanisms of motor imagery
and motor preparation and execution.
65FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
In addition, Beisteiner, Höllinger, Lindinger, Lang, and Berthoz (1995)
have shown that there is a common pattern of cortical activation for execu-
tion and imagination of a unilateral hand movement. Direct current poten-
tial recordings presented no qualitative or quantitative differences between
motor preparation and execution and motor imagery over the central sites.
Similarly, because motor imagery must involve a sequential organization
of action plans (Decety et al., 1990), it is logical to assume that the tempo-
ral nature of motor imagery and motor preparation and execution are alike,
involving the same neural substrate. A number of studies have shown this
to be the case (e.g., Decety, 1996a; Deeke, 1996; Fox, Pardo, Peterson, &
Raichle, 1987). Important implications for motor imagery delivery are evi-
dent and we will discuss these as part of the proposed model.
Peripheral Indices
In addition to the central measures indicating a close functional equiva-
lence between motor preparation and execution and motor imagery, the
peripheral cardiac and respiratory indices which anticipate muscular activ-
ity are also increas ed durin g motor imagery. For example, Decety,
Jeannerod, Germain, and Pastène (1991) showed that heart rate and total
ventilation increased proportionally with imagined incremental workloads
for treadmill and ergometer exercising, although no overt muscle activity
was discernible. Similarly, coupling of motor preparation and cardiac acti-
vation has been shown to be evident in both pathologically and experimen-
tally paralyzed subjects (Decety et al., 1990) where the motor preparation
can be argued to be more akin to motor imagery since no overt movement
was possible. In a study of perspective effects on imagined exercise, Wang
and Morgan (1992) demonstrated that ventilation and effort sense were
higher when an internal imagery perspective was used. Although there were
some similarities between internal and external conditions in metabolic
and cardiovascular responses it was concluded that internal (motor) imag-
ery had the greatest resemblance to actual exercise .
Some of the earliest studies considering the physiology of imagery
(Jacobson, 1931; Shaw, 1940) found functional equivalence in electromyo-
graphic (EMG) activity and while EMG activity has not always been asso-
ciated with imagery (Yue & Cole, 1992), Jeannerod (1997) has suggested
two explanations. First, inhibition of movement may be better in certain
subjects or conditions and, second, the preparatory fibers involved have
been suggested to be deeper and of the slow tonic type such that usual
66 HOLMES AND COLLINS
surface EMG techniques are unlikely to record this activity. Jeannerod
further states that “An incomplete inhibition of motor output (occurring as
a consequence of instructions or of a subject’s bias) would be a valid ex-
planation for accounting for these muscular discharges” (pp. 110-111). This
is a concept very similar to Lang’s theory of efferent leakage (Lang, 1979,
1985).
Behavioral Evidence for Functional Equivalence
Obviously, the lack of an overt physical response (even though some
“trace” movement can occur) is a problem for research focused on behav-
ioral indices of equivalence. Even here, however, investigation is possible
with ingenuity, and studies have used timing to examine the extent of equiva-
lence. The time taken to execute a movement in imagery varies in tandem
with temporal (e.g., distance walked; Decety, Jeannerod, & Prablanc, 1989)
or complexity parameters (e.g., hand/foot rotation; Parsons, 1987). There
are also a wide variety of commonalities between physical and mental prac-
tice effects (e.g., contextual interference; Gabriele, Hall, & Lee, 1989),
which support the contention that both forms of rehearsal access similar, if
not identical, systems and structures. Similarly, Farah (1985) has provided
strong evidence that interactions between imagery and perception imply a
common locus of activity that consists of representational structures. Her
methodologically tight results showed that imagery selectively facilitates
perception through recruitment of attention to “the same functionally spa-
tial representational medium in which stimuli are encoded at an early stage
of perceptual processing” (Farah, 1985, p. 102).
Further behavioral evidence comes from more qualitative studies. Re-
search that has considered facial gestures has shown that re-experiencing
anxious events (visuo-motor imagery) leads to facial movements involved
with fear expressions, more facia l movement, and increased arousal
(Harrigan & O’Connell, 1996).
If behavior is also a functional equivalence element, then sport psy-
chologists may need to consider the congruence of motor imagery behav-
ior to preparation/execution behavior, particularly facial expression (Ek-
man, 1992), as a possible window on the central and peripheral correlates
mentioned above.
Clearly, motor preparation and execution and motor imagery share a
number of socio-physiological processes in their occurrence.
67FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
IMAGERY AND CONSCIOUSNESS
Recent research demonstrates that motor imagery, and similar processes
such as observing a demonstration or watching a video of oneself, produce
a selective enhancement of neural activity in motor pathways concerned
with the simulated action (Jeannerod, 1999). However, it should be noted
that some of the representational levels may not be consciously accessible
and, therefore, under current definitions, may not be imaginable (Jeannerod,
1997). Strong support for this contention is provided by research consider-
ing the visuo-motor systems. Ungerleider and Mishkin (1982) proposed
that visual perception is anatomically distinct from visual control of ac-
tions. They identified two functionally different pathways. The first con-
sists of a ventral stream of projections from the primary visual cortex to
the inferotemporal cortex that is associated with perceptual identification
and recognition of objects. It has associations with higher order brain areas
involved with memory. The second is identified by a dorsal stream termi-
nating in the posterior parietal region having connections directly with the
motor areas and linked to spatial perception, later modified to sensorimo-
tor transformations by Goodale and Milner (1992).
More recent evidence has also identified a third branch of processing
suggesting that the two visual pathways are unlikely to act completely in-
dependently of each other although the extent may vary. Recent research
by Decety and Grèzes (1999) suggests that the goal of the task may govern
stream independence. Functional separation is not observed when there is
no explicit aim to the perceptual task, which may be the case with some
laboratory-based studies in imagery. However, when perception has a defi-
nite goal, functional segregation is more clearly seen in the visual path-
ways. Such findings provide evidence for the validity of imagery “scripts”
with meaning and a definite goal-oriented focus.
Studies of patients with damage to one of the visual systems further
highlights the projection’s function. For example, visual agnostics with
damage to Brodmann’s areas 18 and 19 (ventral stream) are unable to rec-
ognize or describe familiar objects yet still maintain accurate sensorimotor
skills. In contrast, posterior parietal damage leaves the patient with no dif-
ficulty in object recognition but with impaired reaching and scaling of grasp-
ing. Clearly, an understanding of these separate processing routes has much
to offer the sport psychologist. In this regard, Goodale and Milner (1997)
have suggested,
68 HOLMES AND COLLINS
[I]nformation can be processed in the dorsal system without reaching consciousness
and that this prevents interference with the perceptual constancies intrinsic to many
operations within the ventral system that do result in awareness. Intrusions of viewer-
centered information could disrupt the continuity of object identities across chang-
ing viewpoints and illumination conditions.
If this argument is correct, then there should be occasions when norm al subjects are
unaware of changes in the visual array to which their motor system is expertly ad-
justing. (p. 404)
It is plausible, therefore, that elite sport situations may require athletes
to process the majority of visual information through the dorsal stream (cf.
Decety & Grèzes, 1999; Milner & Goodale, 1995; Shaw, 1996). This ex-
planation appears particularly plausible when one considers self-reports of
good performances, because individuals are rarely able to consciously re-
port visual events. Motor imagery scripts of similar events, by their very
nature, may primarily direct information processing through the ventral
stream for the conscious visual experience. Certain propositional scripts
and perspectives may accentuate this somewhat erroneous route. This should
be of some concern for the sport psychologist. If, as will be proposed later,
the specific task elements of the performance behavior should be consid-
ered in imagery, then matching the conscious and nonconscious attentional
components may be very important. This argument also challenges the
sport psychologist’s traditional view of imagery as a completely conscious
process but is supported by several prominent researchers in the field (cf.
Marks, 1999; Pavio, 1986). However, this commonly held belief in sport
psychology has, until recently, resulted in an almost ubiquitous use of ver-
bal imagery scripts. Athletes rarely report a comprehensive conscious, verbal
account of good performance in visuomotor terms (in contrast to poor per-
formances!) yet written or verbal imagery scripts continue to direct con-
scious attention to task relevant cues. Fundamental to the developm ent of
the PETTLEP model was the need to address this paradox of the imagery
process. This need is also implicit in the theoretical arguments supporting
the approach. Consequently, through whichever modality of imagery, the
neural process actioned, be they conscious and/or nonconscious, should
strengthen the memory trace (those structures responsible for selecting and
initiating a movement) of the motor representation by decreasing the vari-
ability of movements in a directly similar way to motor preparation and
execution.
We have suggested that there is a congruence of psychophysiological
processes taking place during preparation for/execution of motor behavior
69FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
and mental imagery of that preparation and execution. Consequently, close
functional equivalence has been proposed as an important prerequisite for
valid and effective mental practice. We will now identify current practice
and propose new techniques to address the functional equivalence issue.
CURRENT POSITION STATEMENT
The versatility of motor imagery has allowed it to be used in a variety of
sporting situations. Popular undergraduate texts (e.g., Horn, 1992; Morris
& Summers, 1995, Weinberg & Gould, 1999) identify numerous uses of
imagery which include skill learning, stress management, performance
preview and review, confidence imagery, and injury recovery. As we work
with more athletes and coaches we become ever more aware of the diver-
sity of possible interventions!
Historically, sport psychologists have delivered imagery scripts in a
multitude of guises: from sport psychologist constructed written scripts
delivered by audio tape to groups, through to complex, individualized,
multisensory, active imagery sessions. There is, however, no available lit-
erature which clearly identifies that the content of the imagery modality
has been considered in relation to the preparation and execution behavior,
or indeed which techniques best create motor preparation and execution/
motor imagery functional equivalence for which individuals. If, as sug-
gested by Fournier and MacIntyre (1997), imagery is a pillar of interven-
tions in applied sport psychology, and recognizing the extent of the sport
psychologist’s capability to command trust, this should be an important
process for all sport psychologists.
We suggest that a minimum, seven point functional equivalence check-
list should be consulted by sport psychologists in addition to normal con-
siderations for imagery employment. The acronym PETTLEP is proposed.
THE PETTLEP MODEL
The following seven items for sport psychologists to consider have been
distinguished for convenience of communication. The model comprises:
physical, environment, task, timing, learning, emotion, and perspective.
The model draws on the neuroscientific functional equivalence literature
previously mentioned and our experiences of the factors that relate to mo-
tor imagery script construction. All the PETTLEP components are sub-
sumed by Langian theory because “it is the interaction between training
70 HOLMES AND COLLINS
EE
EE
ENVIRONMENT
PP
PP
PHYSICAL TT
TT
TASK
PP
PP
PERSPECTIVE MOTOR IMAGERY TT
TT
TIMING
EE
EE
EMOTION LL
LL
LEARNING
t
t
t
ss
s
s
s
s
s
s
s
s
s
2
3
41
Figure 2. Diagrammatic representation of the PETTLEP model indicating modality
interactions and sou rces. 1 K onttin en et al. (1 995 ); 2 Callow & Hardy (1997); 3 Dec ety
et al. (1989); 4 Co llins et a l. ( 199 8).
mode and the propositional structure of the imagery presentation that is
crucial” (Carroll, Marzillier, & Merian, 1982, p. 76).
The model is not intended to be exclusive and will certainly benefit
from comprehensive testing in a variety of settings. However, we believe
that many of the alternative arguments for motor imagery’s effectiveness
can be subsumed within one or more of the model’s components. The emo-
tion component, for example, would include affective states associated
with confidence as an imagery mediator (Callery & Morris, 1993). Simi-
larly, activation or arousal set (Schmidt, 1982; Vealey & Walter, 1993)
would be subsumed within physical, because both attempt to closely match
the physiological arousal during motor imagery with that optimal for the
task. Imagery, it has been argued, helps direct appropriate attentional fo-
cus. The task component serves to address this issue and progresses
attentional focus from just task relevant cues to attentive and intentive states
(Loze, Holmes, Collins, & Bellamy, 1998). Figure 2 identifies the compo-
nents and some of the interactions identified in the literature.
Clearly, some interactions are more evident than others, some are only
unidirectional, and all interactions will manifest considerable individual
differences. While we have highlighted interactions that have been indi-
71FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
cated in the literature, the model is far from complete and we would en-
courage further research to specifically test the implications of the model.
For example, modifying the physical nature of the imagery experience will
have a direct effect on the arousal level of the performer and, subsequently,
the emotional nature of the imagery, and this may be particularly true for
the internal visual/kinesthetic imagery perspective, in a very meaningful
environment. Therefore, the practitioner should consider all possible inter-
actions when using a PETTLEP approach to imagery.
Physical
Most sport performers encounter their first imagery training sessions
with the instructions, “lying or sitting comfortably, visualize . . .” Indeed,
some authors (e.g., Miller, 1991; Weinberg, Seabourne, & Jackson, 1981)
advocate relaxation strategies prior to imagery to clear the mind of distrac-
tions. However, the literature’s support for such wide spread use seems at
best equivocal and certainly not a critical mediating variable (Murphy,
1994). Relaxation’s link with imagery seems to be based in its therapeutic
past (e.g., Wolpe, 1958) rather than through em pirical support from sport
psychology research. Suinn’s (1976) visuo-motor behavior rehearsal is a
method specifically requiring relaxation prior to imagery. While there is
little doubt that some relaxation strategies can have a positive cognitive
imagery effect for some individuals, the technique does not take into ac-
count the somatic influences of relaxation which would seem to be totally
contrary to the somatic state of the performing athlete. The majority of
relaxation techniques described are primarily somatic in nature and, there-
fore, are seen to act primarily on somatic systems (Davidson & Schwartz,
1976). However, if relaxation strategies are to be used then techniques
which can best create the “calm mind–aroused body” observed in elite
performance (Hooper & Collins, 1999), that is, a cognitive state, should be
advocated. There are also important interactions here with the task compo-
nent of PETTLEP.
If functional equivalence is driving the imagery behavior, then manipu-
lating the physical nature of the imagery to most closely approximate to
motor preparation and execution would seem more appropriate. Indeed,
Beisteiner et al. (1995) have proposed that stimulation of peripheral recep-
tors ass o ciate d with task executio n and activat ion of the cortico-
motorneuronal system during motor imagery will increase the psychophysi-
ological congruence of motor preparation/motor imagery at the central sites.
Because creating a motor image that utilizes a greater number of shared
72 HOLMES AND COLLINS
brain regions is clearly beneficial to the strengthening of the memory trace,
performers should be actively involved in the imagery experience, for ex-
ample, involving sporting implements and making movements as neces-
sary (Holmes, Collins, & Saffery, 2000; Mantle, 1994), with the afferent
feedback serving as further reinforcement. We have, therefore, used the
term m ental simulation with movement (c.f. mental simulation of move-
ment, Jeannerod & Decety, 1995) to describe the imagery experience in
athletes. Gould and Damarjian (1996) have offered support for this con-
cept with their notion of dynamic kinesthetic imagery which, they con-
tend, helps athletes to recall more clearly the sensations associated with
their performance.
Environment
Lang (1979, 1985) has emphasized that the response and meaning propo-
sitions must be relevant to the individual. Motor imagery should, there-
fore, be personalized through full, multisensory involvement of the per-
former in the generation of the motor image content. Suggesting environ-
mental “as if” situations that are novel to the performer (e.g., Syer &
Connolly, 1987, p. 64) may not be an effective use of mental practice .
However, supporting individual motor imagery with videotaped record-
ings of performance in familiar training and competition environments
should more effectively access the correct motor representation. In cases
in which performance is to take place at a new venue, every attempt should
be made to provide the performer with multisensory environmental cues to
increase the validity of the stimulus propositions in the imagery process.
These may include video footage, photographs, discussion with previous
venue performers et cetera.
Task
Decety et al. (1994) have shown that different portions of the SMA are
activated depending on the nature of the task. For example, when the mo-
tor imagery requires visually guided movements in the presence of a visual
object (an externally driven task), the premotor neurons are more active.
With internally driven tasks the ventral and mesial portions of SMA ex-
hibit preferential activity. When considering this information in the light
of findings by Konttinen, Lyytinen, and Konttinen (1995) there is strong
evidence that imagery techniques should be different for elite compared
with pre-elite performers (Figure 2, Route 1). Konttinen and his team iden-
73FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
tified that during good performance, elite rifle shooters focus primarily on
motor control prior to triggering (internally driven) whereas pre-elite shoot-
ers were more concerned with visuo-spatial processing (externally driven).
If functional equivalence conditions are to be met, then the content, and
possibly the imagery modality for elite versus pre-elite, should be differ-
ent until the pre-elite, begin to display task characteristics of the elite group.
Similarly, Hardy (1997) has provided evidence that task characteristics
should determine the primary perspective of the imagery although possi-
bly not at the expense of individual perspective preference (Hall, 1997). In
tasks where form is emphasized as important, Callow and Hardy (1997)
have suggested that a combination of external visual im agery with kines-
thetic imagery will lead to superior performance (Figure 2, Route 2) with
the external visual image possessing greater information about the nature
of the form. Again, here we see the importance of the integration of knowl-
edge from task, learning, and perspective.
Timing
We have identified that if motor preparation and execution and motor
imagery access the same motor representation then the temporal charac-
teristics should be the same. This claim for functional equivalence would
seem logical because both types of activity are characterized by a require-
ment to “reconstruct or generate a temporally extended event on the basis
of some form of memory” (Vogt, 1995. p. 193). A number of studies have
shown this. Vogt, for example, showed that movement tempo and consis-
tency of relative timing were similar in physical and mental practice con-
ditions. He concluded that performance, observation, and imagery of se-
quential patterns involves a common process. Similarly, the isochrony prin-
ciple—in which the tangential velocity of movements is scaled to ampli-
tude—is maintain ed in both moto r execution and motor imagery (see
Jeannerod, 1997). In addition, a number of studies (e.g., Decety et al., 1989)
have shown that time is represented as a function of force (Figure 2, Route
3) with estimated duration derived from this level of centrally represented
force (Jeannerod, 1997). Motor preparation and execution generally in-
cludes greater force conditions than typical motor imagery. Therefore, in
motor imagery, where external force conditions are not present, athletes
will perceive increases in felt force as an increase in movement duration
according to their response and meaning propositions. To overcome these
potential duration increases, the interaction with the physical element of
PETTLEP seems appropriate. Holmes, Collins, and Saffery (2000), for
74 HOLMES AND COLLINS
example, have considered this issue in basketball. In a group of varsity
players who imaged the free-throw shot while standing holding a basket-
ball, motor imagery times were significantly closer to actual times com-
pared to subjects who imaged in similar conditions but without the ball.
Whilst this congruence could be a function of the tactile elements of the
ball, subject debriefing suggested that it was the weight that was most im-
portant. Similar results have been obtained by Beak, Davids, and Bennett
(1999) who demonstrated the importance of haptic information in the choice
of tennis rackets. These findings highlight the need to consider kinetic func-
tional equivalence, through singular or interactional PETTLEP elements,
to make more effective use of imagery as an intervention.
Motor imagery training that requires the performer to internally image
in slow motion must also be questionable. However, we acknowledge the
usefulness of the external visual perspective technique isolation approach
(in which with slow motion and freeze frame are utilized for certain spe-
cific learning-related tasks—a good example of task-perspective-timing
interaction). A recent study by Collins, Morriss, Bellamy, and Hooper (1997)
has stressed temporal rhythm, as opposed to achieving key body positions,
as a key feature of effective performance. Realistic timing, it is suggested,
is, therefore, even more important. In sports where the temporal nature of
the task is important, performers frequently refer to it first when doing
well, and many athletes identify such response propositions as important
for their imagery scripts. One elite field athlete, for example, has identified
the temporal rhythm of his run up as critical for optimal performance. As a
result his imagery script comprises auditory cues relating to his foot strike
in the run-up phase (Backley & Stafford, 1995). Verbal or written scripts
would serve to confound the temporal access of the representation. Similar
emphasis on the temporal elements of the task are emphasized in the Mar-
tin Self-Talk Technique (Martin, 1993). In cases in which the temporal
nature of the task is important not only technically, but as a meaning propo-
sition for the athlete, specific reference to the timing element of PETTLEP
should be made for memory trace strengthening.
Learning
Because the motor representation and associated responses will change
over time as learning takes place, so the content of the motor image must
change to accommodate such learning and maintain functional equivalence.
Pascual-Leone et al. (1995), by analyzing the motor areas, have shown that
75FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
motor imagery of finger movements increased in congruence with motor
preparation and execution over a one week period. Therefore, where motor
imagery is combined with technical training or in intensive learning phases
of a task, regularly reviewing content is essential to retain functional equiva-
lence. Unfortunately, this dynamic approach to imagery delivery is rarely
seen in the popular sport psychology texts (e.g., Miller, 1991).
Emotion
Emotion has recently been referred to as “the missing link in sports
performance (Botterill, 1997), while others have observed that “the central
core of mental training is emotional” (Loehr, 1997). Similarly, Moritz,
Hall, Martin, and Vadocz (1996) found that high sport-confident roller
skaters used more mastery and arousal imagery suggesting that emotions
are an important imag ery me diator. Lan g (1985) suggests that the
performer’s response, and the meaning he or she attaches to a scenario,
must be considered if strengthening of the memory trace is to take place.
However, Lang has also stated that during emotional imagery the efferent
pattern is even more elaborate. If this is the case, then sport-related imag-
ery may access such a powerful emotional associative memory network
that efference is poorly inhibited postcerebellum and is far from random as
suggested in Lang’s (1977) earlier work. It is our view that when the other
modalities of PETTLEP, along with their integrations, and Langian theory
are considered in parallel, the associated emotional affect may be so great
that relatively specific efference will result and will show high congruence
with overt behavior. Furtherm ore, motor imagery scripts that create such
efference should be encouraged if the earlier guidelines relating to physi-
cal are to be followed.
Indeed, some studies have found results contrary to those of Lang. For
example, Carroll et al. (1982) showed that cardiovascular propositional
scripts elicited generalized psychophysiological changes. However, no com-
parison was made with the physical task, response proposition scripts were
not published and, most importantly, the subjects for the study were drawn
from a general university population rather than an elite sporting group.
The argument remains untested in the sport domain and research is strongly
encouraged.
The affective response to the motor image is best shown through the
autonomic system (Decety, 1996a). The heart rate and respiration rate
changes that accompany motor preparation and execution reflect alterations
76 HOLMES AND COLLINS
in the energetic state of the performer when faced with psychological chal-
lenge (Smith & Collins, 1992) as well as metabolic requirements. These
changes should certainly be considered and reflected in the imagery con-
tent used to address functional equivalence issues. Specific reference may
be made to these physiological modalities and has been encouraged to in-
crease the general physiological response (Carroll et al., 1982). Such fun-
damental research supports autonomic biased response propositions where
cardiorespiratory control is required, for example, target sports (Holmes,
1996). The inclusion of emotion as a motor imagery variable challenges
the common practice of preceding imagery with a relaxation session (e.g.,
Miller, 1991; Weinberg & Gould, 1999, and see earlier physical section).
If we recognize that sport is not performed in a hyper-relaxed state, we
should also recognize that motor imagery of sport should not be either.
Perspective
As previously suggested, motor imagery is performed from an internal
orientation (primarily kinesthesis, but cooccurring with other individual
and task specific percepts such as vision and olfaction). It is generally well
regarded that this perspective, along with similar response propositional
approaches (Lang, 1979, 1985), leads to a greater physiological response
during the imagery process (Perry & M orris, 1995; Hale, 1982). As we
have previously argued, this should lead to more effective learning and
performance outcomes. However, recent findings have led to renewed in-
terest in imagery perspective with some authors (e.g., Hardy & Callow,
1999; White, & Hardy, 1995) proposing the use of external visual imagery
as a more effective approach for certain types of form based skills which
allow the performer to “see” precise positions and movements (Hardy &
Callow, 1999). At first glance this may seem to challenge a functional
equivalence approach. So why might the external visual perspective be
effective in some circumstances and how can functional equivalence ex-
plain such effectiveness? We are in agreement with Hardy’s (1997) infor-
mation-based position, but also suggest that a functional equivalence ap-
proach can offer additional support. Lang (1985) has stated that network
activations can begin with any set of concepts and move within, or be-
tween, structural levels. Therefore, external visual imagery may contain
sufficient propositional information to access the motor representation and
allow neural network strengthening. With advanced performers, for whom
a well-developed memory trace exists for a given task, it is plausible that
the external visual perspective can access other elements of the representa-
77FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
tion at the same time as the visual. It is certainly true that theoretical per-
spectives, which describe the multimodal, interactional coding of informa-
tion in memory (Pavio, 1986), cortical cell assemblies (Wickens, Hyland,
& Anson, 1994), motor representations (Jeannerod, 1994), parallel distrib-
uted processing (Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986), or neural networks
(Rosenzweig, 1996), offer a mechanism for this effect. In addition, quasi-
random or relatively task specific movement may be discernible in experi-
enced perform ers who adopt an external visual perspective. This conten-
tion is supported by Jeannerod (1997) and offers a theoretical underpin-
ning to advice offered by some researchers (e.g., Hall, 1997). Therefore ,
we suggest that the perspective debate be further advanced to consider the
use of interactional perspectives appropriate for the individual and task.
While the kinesthetic/internal visual perspective has been considered within
this paper, evidence now exists to support research into the kinesthetic/
external visual perspective and possibly others.
Under traditional definitions, it should be remem bered that the image is
a cognitive production. It therefore follows that processing of response
information may initiate associated kinesthetic elements of the motor rep-
resentations during visual imagery but they cannot be consciously attended
to simultaneously with the visual image (cf. Pashler & Johnston, 1998). It
is possible that some of the visuo-motor elements experienced during per-
formance are not available for conscious imagery, as discussed previously
with regard to dorsal stream processing, but can be accessed via modalities
containing sufficient response propositions (e.g., a self-model video). If
this is the case, then it is likely that meaningful visual images are able to
access the kinesthetic elements of the representation at the nonconscious
level with corresponding associated efference. This situation is clearly dif-
ferent to conscious, internally based, kinesthetic imagery. However, both
approaches access the same representation and may be equally effective.
An interaction with the PETTLEP learning element provides a further
issue for the sport psychologist (Figure 2, Route 4). Collins, Smith, and
Hale (1998), researching with highly motivated Karate athletes, suggest
that conscious attention to visual then kinesthetic factors is the perspective
most commonly employed by learners. Because the nature of the learner’s
representation is still at a relatively embryonic stage, the learner must take
in the visual information and then “guesstimate” how that image may feel.
Such procedures offer a particular advantage to more cognitive tasks where
symbolic learning is key (cf. Feltz & Landers, 1983).
The mono-task perspective nature of attention is well recognized during
78 HOLMES AND COLLINS
successful sport performance imagery (Nideffer, 1976), even with the par-
allel processing of external visual and kinesthetic information. Therefore,
more experienced performers must switch between perspectives to be con-
sciously aware of that modality at any given time. The speed of the switch-
ing may be so fast, however, that in anecdotal self-reports athletes may
verbalize in a way which suggests an interactional visual perspective with
kinesthetic imagery. These concepts, however, should not constrain work-
ing definitions or practice in sport psychology. The philosophy provides a
very narrow interpretation of motor imagery. We would, therefore, sup-
port others (e.g., Paivio, 1986) in stating that motor imagery must be con-
sidered to contain both conscious and nonconscious elements of the task
because the cooccurring (albeit possibly not temporally) correlates of the
image must, under the arguments provided earlier, be related to the same
motor representation or conceptual network. We therefore subscribe to
Kosslyn’s (1994) definition of imagery which describes the term as “the
internal representation that is used in information processing” (p. 3).
These suggestions support the use of novel approaches (such as new
perspectives) but only on the basis of an understanding of their modus
operandi.
CONCLUSION
Both research and practice (Collins et al., 1998; Holmes, 1996) has iden-
tified a number of techniques employing this PETTLEP approach. Video
“step in,” emotional word sets and music-facilitated videos, have all been
used successfully to support sport performance. The theoretically based
arguments presented here support such approaches and provide a sound
rationale for practitioners in a way that the plethora of anecdotal athlete
evidence cannot. While we feel that the P ETTLEP approach has a great
deal to offer sport psychologists working with imagery-based interven-
tions, we recognize that little of the applied work has been systematically
tested. A number of studies are ongoing at our own institutions but we
would commend the PETTLEP approach as a suitable new direction for
research in the area.
While we recognize that some colleagues will already adopt aspects of
the approach in their work, we have rarely heard of scripts which include
PETTLEP modalities (presumably as a result of the arguments given above)
or that recognize individualized modality interactions. We continue to ex-
perience success with this approach and, as athletes become more cogni-
79FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE AND MOTOR IMAGERY
zant and more demanding of the sport sciences, the logical arguments to
support such an approach are normally well received. We recommend the
approach to colleagues, together with the inherent need for practical ad-
vice which is based in sound theoretical perspectives.
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... Cognitive visualization of a scene is accompanied by eye movements that reflect the spatial content of the cognitive image and can show the deformation of this cognitive image compared to the real image, such as asymmetry or reduction in size (Fortasi, Rudd, & Pisla, 2017). The results related to the effectiveness of cognitive imaging practice and motor representation are in line with Holmes and Collins (2001) not only for real-time imaging practice, but also for control groups (Holmes and Collins, 2001). Driscell, Cooper, and Moran (1994) stated in a study that motion imagery is more effective in learning activities that have more cognitive components, which confirms the greater effectiveness of motor representation training. ...
... Cognitive visualization of a scene is accompanied by eye movements that reflect the spatial content of the cognitive image and can show the deformation of this cognitive image compared to the real image, such as asymmetry or reduction in size (Fortasi, Rudd, & Pisla, 2017). The results related to the effectiveness of cognitive imaging practice and motor representation are in line with Holmes and Collins (2001) not only for real-time imaging practice, but also for control groups (Holmes and Collins, 2001). Driscell, Cooper, and Moran (1994) stated in a study that motion imagery is more effective in learning activities that have more cognitive components, which confirms the greater effectiveness of motor representation training. ...
... Another question investigated in this research is the type of auditory stimuli associated with which type of visual imagery (internal, external, or kinesthetic) is more effective. According to the PETTLEP model developed by Holmes and Collins [45], the imagery perspective is one of the seven components of mental imagery, and many kinds of research have been conducted regarding the adoption of the appropriate imagery [14,[46][47][48]. Guillot et al. [14] stated that different types of mental imagery (internal and external) lead to specific and different dimensions of motor skill execution [14]. ...
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The purpose of this research was to study the effect of AudioVisual pattern on the muscle activity amplitude during mental imagery. For this purpose, 25 female students (20.73 ± 1.56 years old) engaged in mental imagery (internal, external, and kinesthetic) in three conditions: No pattern, Visual pattern, and AudioVisual pattern. The angular velocity of the elbow joint in the basketball jump shot skill was sonified and presented to the subjects as an auditory pattern. The results showed that the muscle activity amplitude in AudioVisual-kinesthetic and AudioVisual-internal (and not external) conditions is higher than for other conditions. Additionally, a positive correlation was observed between Visual-kinesthetic imagery ability and muscle activity amplitude in the AudioVisual pattern condition and in kinesthetic and internal imagery. In addition, the muscle activity amplitude of high and low Visual-kinesthetic imagery ability conditions were only different in the AudioVisual pattern. The superiority of the AudioVisual condition is most likely due to the auditory information presented in this research being closely related to the kinesthetic sense of movement .
... Findings from neuroscience indicate that an internal perspective ('looking through one's own eyes') recruits more motor-related areas compared to an external perspective ('looking from a camera's perspective') (Hétu et al., 2013;Mizuguchi et al., 2016;Stinear et al., 2018). Along these lines and according to applied models, it has been suggested that one should imagine from one's own perspective (Holmes & Collins, 2001). Evidence from studies comparing perspective across different tasks indicates that the preference and impact of the perspective depends highly on the sport and the task (e.g., Spittle & Morris, 2012;White & Hardy, 1995). ...
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