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A test of processing efficiency theory in a team sport context

Smith, Nickolas C., Bellamy, Mark, Collins, David J. and Newell, Danny (2001) A test of processing efficiency theory in a team sport context. Journal of sports sciences, 19 (5). pp. 321-332. ISSN 1466-447X

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In this study, we tested some key postulates of Eysenck and Calvo's processing efficiency theory in a team sport. The participants were 12 elite male volleyball players who were followed throughout the course of a competitive season. Self-report measures of pre-match and in-game cognitive anxiety and mental effort were collected in groups of players high and low in dispositional anxiety. Player performance was determined from the statistical analysis of match-play. Sets were classified according to the point spread separating the two teams into one of three levels of criticality. Game momentum was also analysed to determine its influence on in-game state anxiety. Significant differences in in-game cognitive anxiety were apparent between high and low trait anxiety groups. An interaction between anxiety grouping and momentum condition was also evident in cognitive anxiety. Differences in set criticality were reflected in significant elevations in mental effort, an effect more pronounced in dispositionally high anxious performers. Consistent with the predictions of processing efficiency theory, mental effort ratings were higher in high trait-anxious players in settings where their performance was equivalent to that of low trait-anxious performers. The usefulness of processing efficiency theory as an explanatory framework in sport anxiety research is discussed in the light of these findings.

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