The influence of stress on visual attention and performance execution in aiming tasks

van Paridon, Kjell N. (2018) The influence of stress on visual attention and performance execution in aiming tasks. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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This thesis examines the endocrine response in naturalistic sport environments and laboratory based stress manipulations to investigate the role of anxiety and biological stress on visual search behaviour and movement execution in perceptual-motor skills. The first study, a systematic review with meta-analysis, identified that athletes experience a significant cortisol response in anticipation to sport competition. Moderator analysis identified that females and athletes competing at international level do not demonstrate this anticipatory cortisol response. Study two, a validation of a golf putting task with a pressure manipulation including self-presentation and performance contingent motivational stimuli, identified distinct inter-individual differences in HPA-axis reactivity, in contrast to SNS reactivity. Responders demonstrated a significant increase in cortisol, in magnitude comparable to real sport competitions, where this was absent in non-responders. Non-significant correlations were found between endocrine reactivity and self-reported measures of anxiety, supporting previous research of the independence of the biological and emotional stress response. The effects of anxiety and endocrine reactivity on performance, visual attention and movement execution in a golf putting task were examined in study three and four. Study three identified that performance accuracy significantly improved under high pressure compared to low pressure. This improvement in performance was explained by a significant reduction in visual attention towards task-irrelevant stimuli and reduced variability in the club head angle at ball impact. Study 4 explored the effects of inter-individual differences in endocrine reactivity on the underlying processes of golf putting performance. Participants with high levels of cortisol were significantly less accurate in performance outcome compared to participants with low cortisol. A significant increase in visual attention towards task-irrelevant stimuli in participants with high cortisol, provided support for the influence of cortisol on the stimulus-driven attentional system in executing perceptual-motor skills under pressure. The interdisciplinary approach in the examination of stress and anxiety on sport performance suggests that both anxiety and cortisol reactivity effects sport performance through its influence on visual attention and movement execution. The inter-individual differences in cortisol reactivity and its effect on movement execution and visual attention, warrants further investigation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: anxiety, cortisol, sAA, BPSM, visual attention, sport performance, movement execution
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2018 12:36
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:57

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