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Evaluate The Contribution Made By Eysenck To Our Understanding Of Anxiety In Sport

1907 words - 8 pages

The relationship between anxiety and performance is imperative as when feelings of anxiety are experienced in a sporting situation, the subsequent effects can be huge. Attempts to understand the effects of anxiety upon performance in sport have been ongoing for many years, and several theories and explanations have been developed to try and improve our understanding of the relationship between stress, anxiety and performance in sport. Eysenck has developed several theories regarding anxiety, and his contribution will be discussed and evaluated.In order to understand anxiety within the context of sport and the implications it may have, an understanding of the earlier theories of anxiety is ...view middle of the document...

He suggested that individuals who experience high levels of trait anxiety possess three cognitive biases; selective attention bias, interpretive bias and negative memory bias. Using this as a basis, Eysenck then went on to develop his four-factor theory of anxiety.Eysenck (1997) developed his four-factor theory of anxiety in part through a synthesis of the theories of Williams (1988) and Weinberger, Schwartz & Davidson (1979). Using the four personality types proposed by Weinberger et al (1979); i.e. hi-anxious, low-anxious, repressors, and defensive hi-anxious, Eysenck attempted to explain how the characteristics and biases of these different personality types can influence the level of experienced anxiety. Briefly, what this theory suggests is as a result of cognitive biases individuals have variations in their levels of trait anxiety, and in the emphasis which they place on social desirability. From this; Eysenck's theory assumes that high-anxious individuals have biases which cause them to be more conscious of threatening situations and also to interpret ambiguous situations as threatening. This is in contrast to repressors, who underrate threatening situations and tend to view ambiguous situations as unthreatening.In their research, Kelly, Smith & Holmes (in press) focused on Eysenck's four factor theory of anxiety and the role cognitive biases play in the experience of anxiety of sports performers, in particular repressors. Using golf, Kelly et al aimed to establish whether a characteristic of repressors in sport is that they tend to interpret anxiety symptoms as facilitating, and also whether hi-anxious, low-anxious and repressors differed in their expectations of future performances. What they found was that repressors did not interpret anxiety as more facilitative than hi or low anxious individuals; however they tend did to be overly optimistic regarding future performance. Hi-anxious individuals were predicted to be pessimistic about their performance but their performance expectations were found to be consistent with their actual performances. Kelly et al recommended that additional research is essential to further explain the role of cognitive biases in sport.In general, research does support the concept of the four-factor theory (Eysenck 1997) however, there are inconsistencies between studies and the application of the four-factor theory within sport has largely been ignored as Kelly et al point out. They indicate how research on anxiety in sport has failed to examine performance using the four personality types suggested by Weinberger. In conclusion, Eysenck's four-factor theory of anxiety has not been sufficiently studied outside and within the context of sport and thus further research on the four-factor theory is required.However a theory within which several studies in the context of sport have been completed is the processing efficiency theory. Eysenck and Calvo (1992) developed the processing efficiency theory in an...

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