The Influence of Dispositional Mindfulness on State Anxiety and Motor Choking Under Pressure
Thompson, Andrew G
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Performance pressure can promote anxiety. The accompanying increase in physiological arousal and reallocation of attentional resources can result in underperforming, known as choking under pressure. Research suggests the extent to which pressure influences motor performance may depend on individual differences in the degree to which anxiety increases while performing under pressure. Mindfulness represents a mental mode whereby attention is self-regulated in an emotionally nonreactive manner. As dispositional mindfulness can attenuate anxiety in stressful environments, it may reflect an individual difference in performers’ susceptibility to choking under pressure. Specifically, individuals with high degrees of dispositional mindfulness may be less likely to experience increases in anxiety under pressure and therefore less likely to choke. The present study tested this hypothesis by having 83 participants perform a novel, closed-motor task (rolling a ball 100 cm to a target) under low- and high-pressure conditions. Self-reported state anxiety was assessed just prior to each condition, and dispositional mindfulness was indexed at the end of each data collection. Results revealed dispositional mindfulness attenuated choking under pressure, but changes in state anxiety did not mediate this relationship. This is the first experimental evidence that dispositional mindfulness attenuates choking under pressure during motor performance. Although the mechanisms underlying this relationship are still unclear, these results implicate mindfulness training as a tool that may be beneficial to alleviate choking under pressure.