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 visual aids.

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; Hughes, 1990).

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, 1995).

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, 1987).

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.

Table I

Demographic Characteristics of MAPCU players (N=167)

Demographic Variable n M SD %
Age 167 20.83 2.03  
  -Male 125     74.9
  -Female 42     25.1
  -Basketball 59     35.3
  -Volleyball 47     28.1
  -Table Tennis 28     16.8
  -Bowling 33     19.8
Experience (years of involvement) 167 4.56 2.96  
Results of current competition        
  -Champion 68     40.7
  -1st Runner-up 31     18.6
  -1st Round only 68     40.7
Highest achievement        
  -School Level 60     35.9
  -District Level 33     19.8
  -State Level 68     40.7
  -Country Level 6     3.6

The findings indicated that the type of imagery used by MAPCO players as Table II.

Table II
Descriptive Statistic for Type of Imagery Used by the MAPCO Players
Type of Imagery N Mean SD
Visual 167 10.665 5.513
Kinesthetic 167 10.641 5.569
Auditory 167 10.629 5.436
Emotion 167 10.611 5.524

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.

Table III
Comparison of the Imagery Used by the Champion team and the team which Defeated in 1st Round
Type of Imagery Champion
(N =68)
1st Round
t df Sig.
Mean SD Mean SD
Visual 12.132 5.274 6.706 3.332 7.172 134 .000
Auditory 12.147 5.178 6.618 3.177 7.506 134 .000
Kinesthetic 12.294 5.342 6.500 3.419 7.533 134 .000
Emotion 12.206 5.396 6.618 3.494 7.168 134 .000


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’ internal imagery.

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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