Sport Sciences for Health

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–9 | Cite as

Mediator and moderator variables of imagery use-motor learning and sport performance relationships: a narrative review

  • Maamer SlimaniEmail author
  • Karim Chamari
  • Driss Boudhiba
  • Foued Chéour


The aim of the present review paper was to identify the potential mediator and moderator variables involved in the recommendation of which types (functions) of imagery are the greatest use to the performer. The current review has proven that the efficacy in using imagery as a mediator of the relationship between imagery ability and cognitive imagery use. Particularly, it has been consistently found that athletes who use motivational general-mastery (MG-M) imagery report higher levels of both self-confidence and self-efficacy. As moderator variables, the reviewed studies have revealed that the stage of skill learning has a differential effect on the type of imagery used by athletes. Firstly, in the early stages of skill acquisition, novices may use imagery primarily for its cognitive specific (CS) function to assist in the organization of information (about the skill or strategy to be learnt). Secondly, in the autonomous stage of learning, athletes reported their use of imagery for MG-M function. Typically, MG-M imagery is mostly used in competition and CS imagery is mostly in practice, with motivational specific (MS) and motivational general-arousal (MG-A) imagery the least used in both these settings. However, the present review also showed that athletes at higher competitive levels used all five functions of imagery to a greater extent in both training and competition than do athletes at lower levels. In addition, this review indicated that athletes in closed-skill sports use more cognitive imagery functions [CS and cognitive general (CG)] than athletes in open-skill sports. While, athletes in open-skilled sports used significantly more MG-A imagery than those in closed-skill sports. It has also been shown that CG imagery is used more in such team sports (i.e., soccer) to build or maintain confidence and self-efficacy, and the CS imagery is used to improve sport performance (i.e., passing, dribbling). In conclusion, the data obtained in the present review have shown that self-efficacy as factors that may facilitate the effectiveness of imagery use by athletes. Thus, athletes report using imagery for all five functions (CG, CS, MG-A, MG-M, and MS imagery), MG-M and CS imagery are typically the most frequently employed. Whereas, MG-M and CG functions used to build or maintain confidence and self-efficacy, and CS function used to improve skill learning and sport performance. From an applied perspective, sport psychologists and fitness trainers can be implemented mental imagery training according to their athlete levels, types of skills, the intended outcome for the imagery use, phase of learning, and sport situations.


Imagery Learning Performance Sports Mediator Moderator 


Compliance with ethical standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review.

Conflict of interest

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maamer Slimani
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Karim Chamari
    • 3
  • Driss Boudhiba
    • 4
  • Foued Chéour
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFaculty of Sciences of BizerteBizerteTunisia
  2. 2.Research Laboratory “Sports performance Optimization”National Center of Medicine and Science in Sports (CNMSS)TunisTunisia
  3. 3.Athlete Health and Performance Research Centre, ASPETARQatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine HospitalDohaQatar
  4. 4.High Institute of Sport and Physical Education, Ksar-SaïdMannouba UniversityMannoubaTunisia
  5. 5.High Institute of Applied Biology of MédenineMedenineTunisia

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