The effects of positive and negative imagery on motor skill performance


An investigation was carried out into the effect of imagery instructions on a simple motor skill accuracy task (putting a golf ball). Thirty college students were blocked on their putting ability and randomly assigned within blocks to one of three experimental conditions: (a) positive imagery, (b) negative imagery, and (c) control. Subjects in the two imagery conditions were given the identical instructions for imagining the backswing and putting stroke. In the positive imagery group, subjects imagined the ball going into the cup, while subjects using negative imagery visualized the ball narrowly missing the cup. Subjects in the control group putted without instructions. On each of 6 consecutive days a 10-putt trial was conducted for each subject. There was a significant main effect on performance improvement for the experimental manipulation. Post hoc analyses showed significant differences among all groups, with positive imagery producing the most improvement, the control condition producing less, and negative imagery resulting in performance deterioration. Results are discussed in relation to the existing literature, and future research directions are delineated.

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Woolfolk, R.L., Parrish, M.W. & Murphy, S.M. The effects of positive and negative imagery on motor skill performance. Cogn Ther Res 9, 335–341 (1985).

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  • College Student
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Performance Improvement
  • Research Direction
  • Motor Skill