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
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).
Jeannerod, M. (1997). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Action. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Weinberg, R. S. and Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (5th edn).
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Driskell, J. E., Copper, C. and Moran, A. (1994). Does mental practice improve performance?
Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 481–92.

Feltz, D. L. and Landers, D. M. (1983). The effects of mental practice on motor skill learning
and performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 5, 25–57.

Hall, C., Mack, D., Paivio, A. and Hausenblas, H. (1998). Imagery use by athletes: Development
of the sport imagery questionnaire. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 29, 73–89.

Holmes, P. S. and Collins, D. J. (2001). The PETTLEP approach to motor imagery: A
functional equivalence model for sport psychologists. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology,
13(1), 60–83.

Jeannerod, M. (1994). The representing brain: Neural correlates of motor intention and
imagery. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 187–245.

Murphy, S. M. (1990). Models of imagery in sport psychology: A review. Journal of Mental
Imagery, 14, 153–72.

Nordin, S. M. and Cumming, J. (2005). Professional dancers describe their imagery: Where,
when, what, why, and how. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 295–416.

Smith, D., Wright, C. J., Allsopp, A. and Westhead, H. (2007). It’s all in the mind: PETTLEPbased
imagery and sports performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 80–92.
Wakefield, C. J. and Smith, D. (2011). Frequency of PETTLEP imagery and strength gains:
A case study. The Sport Psychologist, 25(3), 305–20.

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.