Arousal (Psychology) Flashcards Preview

Josh's AS PE > Arousal (Psychology) > Flashcards

Flashcards in Arousal (Psychology) Deck (23):

Definition of Arousal

Arousal is a sense of alertness and anticipation which prepares the body for action. Honeybourne defines it as “the energised state, or the readiness for action that motivates a performer to behave in a particular way.” Arousal occurs on a continuum and varies from deep sleep to intense excitement Symptoms of arousal can be cognitive (psychological), e.g. loss of concentration or somatic (physiological), e.g. increased heart rate, sweating.


How does arousal affect performance?

•As a performer’s arousal level increases (often referred to as getting “psyched up”), the state of readiness and expectation increases •But if the level of arousal gets too high, a performer can lose concentration and feel over-aroused. Over arousal is referred to as ANXIETY.


What are the 3 theories?

-Drive theory -Inverted-U theory -Catastrophe theory


Drive theory (HULL) -What is it?

Drive theory suggests that there is a positive linear relationship between arousal and performance.


Diagram of drive theory and describe the relationship.

As the level of arousal increases the quality of performance also increases.

A image thumb

What is the formula of drive theory?

P = f(DxH)

Drive - level of arousal

Habit - the dominant response, i.e. - the most common performance



When a performer is an expert or the task is easy, what is the dominant response?

To perform correctly and thus performanceis enhanced by increased arousal.


When the performer is a beginner or the task is complex what is the response?

the typical response may be incorrect and so performance is impaired by increased arousal. This negative effect is likely to be enhanced if there is a crowd present and the performer believes that they are being judged (evaluation apprehension). Therefore novices perform better at lower levels of arousal.



What's the problem with drive theory?

The problem with drive theory is that it is unrealistic to expect performance to continue increasing as arousal gets higher; even top class performers with highly developed habitual skills have failed in high arousal situations, e.g. high profile footballers missing penalties in vital shoot-outs.


Inverted-U Theory

As arousal level increases, so does the level of performance (point A).

But only to an optimum point, which usually occurs at moderate arousal levels (B). This is the point at which best performance occurs.

If arousal continues to increase after this point there is a gradual decrease in performance as participants can become anxious (C).

A image thumb

The ''ZONE''

-An athlete tends to have a “region” of best performance, known as the ideal performance state or the zone. When an athlete is in the zone, they are also said to experience peak flow.

-Flow is an optimal experience which is intrinsically rewarding. Murphy (1996) defined peak flow as “a special place where performance is exceptional and consistent, automatic and flowing. An athlete is able to ignore all the pressures and let their body deliver the performance that has been learned so well.”



-If skill level exceeds task demands (task is too easy) and the performer is bored.

-If task demands exceed skill level (task is too hard) and the performer becomes anxious.

-If the demands of the task match the skill level of performer, he/she experiences peak flow.


A image thumb

Performers who have experienced peak flow have reported that...

-Their actions are automatic and the performer feels totally in control without needing to exert undue effort.

-Time slows down or speeds up and they feel exhilarated by the activity.


Peak flow is achieved when:

-Performer has positive mental attitude and is in control of their anxiety

-Has high achievement motivation and high confidence

-The performer maintains concentration and confidence (maintains focus)

-Peak fitness is maintained


Zone of optimal functioning

-Hanin believed that the optimum level of arousal is not always at mid-point of the inverted U and that best performance will vary between sportspeople. Some athletes will peak at low arousal, others will peak at medium arousal but some athletes will peak at high arousal for the same task.

-The width of the zone can vary from player to player; some players have a very narrow zone of optimal functioning, whereas others can tolerate a broader range of arousal and still stay within the zone.





Inverted-U theory and type of task

-Gross skills


-Fine skills

-Skills that are gross and use abilities such as strength and speed require higher levels of arousal because less control is needed. A rugby tackle is one example, and rugby forwards are often seen “psyching themselves up” prior to a match.

-Fine skills and open skills which are more complex and require cognitive abilities, reach an optimum performance level at lower arousal levels. Performers are often seen trying to calm themselves down before performing such skills.





Inverted-U theory & personality

Personality types who enjoy high levels of excitement and are generally more extrovert can cope in a high arousal situation. People who are more introverted are generally more likely to perform well under low arousal conditions.

A image thumb

Inverted-U Theory & Skill level

-A novice performer will have low skill levels

-So the execution of even relatively easy tasks will require a great deal of information processing.

-So a low level of arousal is best for optimum performance, as there is no conflict between demands of task and other stimuli




-An expert performer will execute most skills as motor programmes.

-Many of their actions need very little conscious control

-therefore they can cope with higher levels of arousal

A image thumb

Explanation of catastrophe theory

Catastrophe theory (Hardy & Frazey) is similar to the inverted-U hypothesis in that both argue that if arousal increases it will have a positive effect on performance up to a certain optimal level. However, it suggests that once a performer is over-aroused the deterioration is much more extreme than the inverted-U theory suggests, and cannot be stopped merely by calming the player down a little. “Going over the top” in this situation will have a dramatic effect on the ability to concentrate, make decisions and play shots effectively (i.e. a catastrophe!)


Hardy & Frazey accept that if a player is beginning to become over aroused, it is possible to make a conscious effort to reduce arousal and return to the peak of the U (and optimum levels) but this tends only to be possible if the performer is only slightly over aroused.


Diagram of catastrophe and explanations

A-If arousal increases it will have a positive effect on performance up to a certain optimal level

B- But, further increase in arousal causes catastrophic deterioration in performance

C-Or if the performer is unable to reduce their arousal levels, their performance will continue to decline

D-From here it is possible to make a conscious effort to reduce arousal and return to the peak of the U (and optimum levels) but this tends only to be possible if the performer is only slightly over aroused.


A image thumb

Attentional narrowing

Attentional narrowing explains why over arousal has a detrimental effect on performance…

At low arousal, performer can be distracted by irrelevant stimuli

Attentional narrowing occurs when the performer is so focussed on performing the skill (or on a small part of the display, e.g. the defender in front of them) that they miss other important cues, e.g. team mates they could pass to.


Sometimes the performer may focus their attention on irrelevant cues – this is called attentional wastage.


Extreme levels of arousal can cause such acute levels of attentional narrowing that a person is not able to concentrate or make decisions effectively, which can even hinder the smooth control of physical movements. This state of “hyper-vigilance” is commonly known as “blind panic”.

Therefore, if a performer can improve their selective attention, as arousal levels increase they are less likely to suffer from this attentional narrowing.