The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the
imagery used by players in the Malaysian Association of
Private Colleges & Universities (MAPCU) Games and also compare
the significant differences imagery used by the Champion team
and the team defeated in the 1st Round. Participants were 167
players (125 male & 42 female) participated in the MAPCU Games
2002. Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ) was administered to
the participants to determine their imagery used level. The
obtained results indicated that Visual Imagery (M=10.65;
SD=5.513) is the highest type of imagery used by the MAPCO
players. Results also indicated that significant differences
were noted in imagery used by the Champion team and the team
defeated in 1st Round (t-test: Visual=7.172; Auditory=7.506;
Kinesthetic=7.533; Emotion=7.168, p<.001). In general, the
Champion team which consisted of majority experienced players
used more imagery as compared to the team defeated in 1st
Round which consisted of novice players.
"Article written by Mr. Lim Boon Hooi, Sports Executive, Inti College Malaysia."
Visualization, mental rehearsal, imagery, and mental practice
all refer to creating or recreating an experience in the mind
(Weinberg & Gould, 1995). This approach involves retrieving an
experience from memory and using it in a meaningful way or it
may involve creating an image of a new experience from cues or
Denis (1985) defined imagery as a psychological activity that
evokes the physical characteristics of an object, person, or
place that is either permanently or temporarily absent from
our perception. Images are active and dynamic (Paivio, 1986).
Defrancesco and Burke (1997) surveyed professional tennis
players about their use of mental preparation for competition.
The study indicated that the elite athletes cited
psychological skills more often as reasons for their
successful performances in tournament. According to that
study, imagery was one of the most common mental strategies
employed by the participating athletes. Athletes report using
imagery in their daily training, however, they use it most in
conjunction with competition (Hall, Rodgers, & Barr, 1990).
Coaches often encourage their athletes to use imagery to help
them learn new skills and to improve skills including
improving the skills they already possess (Hall & Rodgers,
1989). Furthermore, imagery is often a key component in the
mental training program developed and implemented by sport
psychologists (Daw & Burton, 1994; Fenker & Lambiotte, 1987;
Imagery as a preparatory strategy used prior to performance
has improved on strength tasks (Shelton & Mahoney, 1978; Tynes
& McFatter, 1987), muscular endurance tasks (Gould, Weinberg,
& Jackson, 1980; Lee, 1990), and golf putting (Murphy &
Woolfolk, 1987; Woolfolk, Parrish, & Murphy, 1985).
Imagery has been used along with other intervention techniques
to enhance performance. Suinn (1993) has utilized a technique
known as Visuo-motor Behavior Rehearsal (VMBR), which combines
relaxation with imagery. Research has demonstrated an increase
in the neuromuscular activity of skiers in the muscles used
for skiing when they used VMBR, and similar performance
increases of karate performers who used VMBR (Seabourne,
Weinberg, Jackson, & Suinn, 1985). Other studies using imagery
as part of a psychological intervention package have shown
positive performance results with golfer, basketball players,
figure skaters, and tennis players, although the improvements
could not be attributed to imagery alone (Perry & Morris,
Various theoretical explanations on how imagery facilitates
performance have been widely researched in the literature. The
Psychoneuromuscular Theory suggests that similar impulses
occur in the brain and muscles when athletes imagine the
movements without actually performing them. According to this
theory, the excitation of the neuromuscular pattern associated
with a particular skill can also be initiated through imagery.
Therefore, the activity is a mirror image of the actual
performance pattern (Rushall & Lippman, 1998). All movements
that we make must first be encoded in our central nervous
system. We must have a blue print or plan for this movement.
The Symbolic Learning Theory suggests that imagery may
function as a coding system to help people understand and
acquire movement patterns (Weinberg & Gould, 1995). This
theory applies more to cognitive learning such as game
strategies. Bioinformational Theory assumes that a mental
image is an organized set of propositions that are stored in
the brain’s long-term memory (Lang, 1977, 1979). When the
athletes engage in imagery, they activate stimulus
propositions and response propositions to the stimuli in the
situation. Response processing during imagery facilitates
performance on various tasks (Hecker & Kaczor, 1988).
Attention-Arousal Set Theory combines the cognitive aspects of
Symbolic Learning Theory with the physiological aspects of
Psychoneuromuscular Theory. This theory suggests that imagery
can improve concentration, reduce anxiety, and enhance
confidence (Weinberg & Gould, 1995). Ahsen’s (1984) Triple
Code Model (ISM) of imagery highlights the understanding of
three effects that are essential aspects or parts of imagery.
The first part is the Image (I) itself. “The image is a
sensation but it is interval at the same time. It represents
the outside world and its objects with a degree of sensory
realism which enables us to interact with the images as if we
were interacting with real world” (Ahsen, 1984, p.34). The
second part is the Somatic response (S): The act of
imagination results in psychophysiological changes in the
body. The Meaning (M) refers to the image. According to Ahsen,
every image imparts a definite significance, or meaning, to
the individual imager, and that the same set of imagery
instructions will never produce the same imagery experience
for any two people.
167 players participated in the MAPCU Games 2002 were chosen
for this study. (Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and
Universities (MAPCU) is an umbrella organization that
converges all private institutions of higher tertiary
education into extramural activities and areas of common
interest. Up to end of year 2002, a total of 47 private
colleges and universities in Malaysia affiliated to MAPCU. The
MAPCU Games is an annual event organized by the MAPCU Sport
Committee. In year 2002, a total of 13 events were held
throughout the year commencing from March until November,
conducted in three phases. A few games were competed in each
phase. This study is a replicate of previous studies, which
investigated a sample from Malaysian Association of Private
Colleges and Universities (MAPCU) athletes. Furthermore, it
will compare the significant difference of imagery used by the
champions and the team defeated in the first round.
The participants were selected based on the results of the
competition. The two teams which entered finals, two other
teams from the champion team, and another team which was
defeated in the first round was selected for the study. These
participants consisted of 125 male and 42 female who
participated in the MAPCU Basketball, Volleyball, Bowling and
Table Tennis in year 2002. The ages of the participants ranged
between 17 and 34 years old.
Demographic Questionnaire: This questionnaire was designed to
evaluate the individual difference variable of those who
participated in the study. The demographic variables that were
examined in this study were number of years experience, age,
gender, current performance, and level of representation.
Sport Imagery Questionnaire: The Sport Imagery Questionnaire (SIQ)
was used to determine if the participants are considered good
imagers. The SIQ requires the participants to imagine
themselves in four different practice and playing situations:
(a) practicing alone, (b) practicing with others, (c) watching
their partner play, and (d) playing in a contest. Using a
scale 1 to 5, they were asked to rate (a) how clearly they saw
the images, (b) how clearly they heard the sounds associated
with the images, (c) how well they were able to feel the
bodily sensations associated with the images, (d) how aware
they were of feelings and emotions, and (e) how well they were
able to control the images. The SIQ has been found to possess
high internal consistency. Alpha Coefficients for Visual and
Kinesthetic subscales have been identified as .87 and .91
(Martin & Hall, 1995). A correlation analysis of the scores on
each subscale yielded a coefficient of .58 (Martin & Hall,
1995), suggesting that visual and kinesthetic imagery of
movement are related, but separate measure. Hall et al. (1996)
concluded that the SIQ is a useful instrument for further
systematic investigations of how athletes use imagery.
Reliability of SIQ is .76 and the Validity is .85 (Martens,
The participants were given the explanation and instruction to
complete the SIQ after the game through their coach and team
manager at the competition venue under supervision of
investigator. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the
level of imagery used by the MAPCU players and the t-test were
compared on the imagery level between the Champion team and
the team which defeated in the 1st Round of the MAPCU games.
The purposes of this study were to: (1) determine the imagery
level of the players in MAPCU Games, (2) compare the
significant differences imagery used by the Champion team and
the team which was defeated in the 1st Round of the games.
Demographic Characteristics of MAPCU players selected in this
study as Table I.
Demographic Characteristics of MAPCU players (N=167)
| -Table Tennis
|Experience (years of
|Results of current
| -1st Runner-up
| -1st Round only
| -School Level
| -District Level
| -State Level
| -Country Level
The findings indicated that the type of imagery used by MAPCO
players as Table II.
Descriptive Statistic for Type of Imagery Used by the MAPCO
In order to determine the differences of imagery used by the
champion team and the team, which was defeated in the 1st
Round, Table III showed the results of this study.
Comparison of the Imagery Used by the Champion team and the
team which Defeated in 1st Round
Type of Imagery
The findings indicated Visual imagery (M=10.65; SD=5.513) is
the highest type of imagery used by the MAPCO players. Visual
imagery is predominately external imagery and is characterized
by a third-person perspective. This indicated that MAPCO
players used the external imagery higher as compared to using
internal imagery. Visual Imagery was the predictors of
cognitive state arousal, and also predicted somatic state
anxiety, which can be both debilitative and facilitative; one
possible explanation for this finding is that high visual
imagers can better control the content of their images. In
this way they could change an image of being anxious to an
image of confidence (Moritz et al., 1996).
On the other hand, internal imagery refers to kinesthetic,
involves two keys components, feelings of movement and
sensations of force or effort (Jeannerod, 1994; Smyth &
Waller, 1998). Research has shown that elite athletes are more
likely to practice imagery from an internal perspective as
compared to non-elite athletes, who are more likely to
practice imagery from an external perspective (Mahoney &
Avener, 1977; Orlick & Partington, 1986; Rotella et al.,
1980). Also, internal imagery has been shown to produce more
neuromuscular activity than external imagery (Hale, 1982;
Harris & Robinson, 1986). Hale (1982) showed that weight
lifters who used an internal imagery style experienced greater
muscle activity than those who used an external style.
Likewise, Harris and Robinson (1986) demonstrated that
internal imagery elicited greater EMG activity in the deltoid
muscle group than external imagery during a lateral
arm-raising task. They further demonstrated that advanced
karate students not only used internal imagery to a greater
degree than beginning karate students, but that the internal
imagery generated greater EMG activity.
However, there are a number of studies with contradictory
results. Hall, Rodgers, and Barr (1990) discovered that
athletes tend to use both perspectives. They determined that
elite and non-elite athletes use both perspectives, and did
not favor one over the other. Another study by Gordon and
Weinberg (1994) found that there were no significant
differences between cricket’s players in a control group and
the internal and external imagery group. They also found
similar results to Hall et al., (1990) in that the athletes
indicated that they would switch between internal and external
when imagines. Therefore, one perspective may not be better
than the other. They also determined that athletes tend to
switch between the two perspectives depending on what they are
trying to accomplish. This may be due to the lack of
experience of athletes. A more experience athletes may have
more knowledge to draw from when creating images.
Athletes can use whichever perspective they feel most
comfortable with at the initial stage. If they have trouble
with internal imagery, then they are advised to practice to
perform better using the kinesthetic imagery. A suggested way
to develop MAPCO players with internal imagery ability is to
have them actually perform a skill (e.g., basketball
shooting), and then immediately close their eyes and try to
replay the way they shoot, look and feel from inside their
body. This physical-mental practice routine should be
represented several times to strengthen MAPCO players’
Results of this study clearly demonstrated that imagery used
by the Champion team and the team defeated in the 1st Round
was significantly different (t-test: Visual=7.172;
Auditory=7.506; Kinesthetic = 7.533; Emotion = 7.168, p<
.001). The results of this study indicated that the Champion
team which consisted majority of players who are either
currently or formally have played at the State or National in
Basketball, Volleyball, Bowling and Table Tennis event. The
skills of these players are high and they are classified as
the experience players as compared to players who were
defeated in the 1st Round. The results of the study support
the findings reported by Isaac (1992), demonstrated that
experienced trampolines benefitted from imagery to a much
greater extent than novices. As with mental practice, highly
accomplished athletes can benefit greatly from imagery.
Conversely, the novice will have difficulty utilizing imagery
to their advantage, because they do not have a clear mental
picture of what it is they are imaging.
The experimental evidence of this study shows that imagery can
significantly help performance of both the novice and
experienced performers, although there are somewhat stronger
effects for experienced players (Feltz & Landers, 1983).
Imagery may help novice performers learn cognitive elements
relevant to successful performance of the skill. For
experienced performers, imagery appears to help refine skills
and make decisions and perceptual adjustments rapidly. Results
of these findings show that the defeating teams should be
given more training that involves the concept of imagery
especially during training.
Ability to imagine or image has been shown to be important
factors in distinguishing between elite and non-elite or
successful and less successful performers (Murphy, 1994). It
is important to let individuals know that imagery is a skill
and, therefore, the vividness and controllability of one’s
imagery can be improved with practice (Rodgers, Hall, &
Buckholtz, 1991). Figure skaters who received imagery practice
across a 16-week training period improved their ability to a
greater extent than a group who experienced verbalization
training (use of cue words). Further study should be conducted
qualitatively to understand the imagery experience obtained by
both the champion and the defeating athletes.
Finally, combination of physical and mental practice is not
better than physical practice alone within the same time frame
if the mental component takes time away from physical practice
(Hird, Landers. Thomas, & Horan, 1991). In essence, imagery
needs to be added to the normal physical practice, but it
shouldn’t replace it.
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