When you have studied this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Define imagery and explain how athletes commonly use it
  • Identify the different imagery types and understand how these may be used in different situations with a view to improving sports performance
  • Explain the key mechanisms and processes that increase the effectiveness of imagery and how these impact on the imagery experience
  • Name and describe elements of the PETTLEP (physical, environment, task, timing, learning, emotion and perspective) model and explain how these could be
    integrated into an imagery intervention
Imagery in sport
David Smith and
Caroline Wakefield
Applying the science
Imagery ability is used as a basic assumption for many scientific studies. Typically,
participants are tested for their imagery ability, and those with low imagery ability
are either placed in control groups or are distributed evenly among the intervention
groups. In other studies, imagery ability is used as a mediator for performance
effects from imagery. However, imagery ability is a self-report measure, with
participants reporting how easy or difficult they find it to see or feel an action, in the
absence of overt movement. Results can assist with research studies, but can also
form the basis of advice, when one is working as an applied practitioner, with
regard to whether imagery should be more visual or kinaesthetic in nature. Try
completing the Movement Imagery Questionnaire - Revised (Hall and Martin, 1997)
and see whether your results match your predicted ability/preferred style.
Movement Imagery Questionnaire online
As noted above, imagery can be used to obtain various outcomes. Hall et al. (1997),
in developing a questionnaire to measure imagery use - the Sport Imagery Questionnaire

These are as follows:
  • cognitive specific (CS): imagery of specific sport skills (e.g. taking a basketball free throw);
  • cognitive general (CG): imagery of strategies and routines (e.g. a golfer’s pre-putt routine, a
    football team’s defensive strategy);
  • motivational specific (MS): imagery of specific goals and goal-oriented behaviour (e.g. a
    weightlifter lifting a record weight, holding up the winner’s trophy);
  • motivational general arousal (MGA): imagery of emotions associated with performance (e.g.
    excitement felt when competing in front of a large crowd);
  • Motivational general mastery (MGM): imagery of mastering sport situations (e.g.a footballer
    keeping focused while being barracked by opposition fans).
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Wakefield, C. J., Smith, D., Moran, A. and Holmes, P. (2013). Functional equivalence or
behavioural matching? A critical reflection on 15 years of research using the PETTLEP
model of motor imagery. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6, 105-21.