An investigation examining the effects of specificity within the construct of anxiety on planning and execution of movement

Electronic versions


  • Victoria Hadnett

    Research areas

  • School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences


The specificity of practice hypothesis and the psychological construct of anxiety are well established bodies of literature within their respective fields of research. The purpose of the current thesis was to design a series of experiments that investigate whether anxiety conforms to the principles of specificity. All experiments within the thesis provide data indicating that a change in anxiety mood state between acquisition and transfer results in a decrement in performance; both if anxiety is added or removed between acquisition and transfer. That is, the optimal performance of movements are linked (directly or indirectly) to the mood state under which they were learnt. Furthermore, the latter half of the experiments aimed to investigate the motor control processes that are affected by the anxiety/mood specificity i.e. whether movement planning (offline processes) and/or adjustment to movements during execution (online processes) are affected. Results support a specificity framework within the construct of anxiety, indicating the motor control mechanisms responsible for this pressure-performance specificity interaction are associated with effortful and non-automatic parameterisation of movement. However, upon further detailed analysis we conclude that any changes in offline processes are a strategy to overcome the reduction in one’s ability to utilise online control processes when performing and learning under anxiety. That is, practicing with anxiety conforms to specificity effects and the strategy that is deemed most useful for success under anxiety conditions is to enhance movement planning. This strategy appears to be due to anxiety disrupting the automatic processes associated with the use of online control. Specificity of practice also offers an alternative explanation for choking and raises important theoretical and practical issues within both the motor control domain and sport psychology domain. That is, experimental paradigms used and the conclusions drawn from them need to be considered with knowledge of the Specificity of Practice Hypothesis (Proteau, 1992).


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award dateJan 2015