ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (10): 1851-1864.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2013.01851

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Processing Efficiency Theory to Attentional Control Theory: New Perspective for Anxiety-performance Relationship in Sport Psychology

SUN Guoxiao;ZHANG Liwei   

  1. (Sport Psychology Section, Dept. of Sports Kinetics, Beijing Sport University, Beijing 100084, China)
  • Received:2013-02-05 Online:2013-10-15 Published:2013-10-15
  • Contact: ZHANG Liwei

Abstract: Sport psychology literature extensively reveals that competitive anxiety affects athletic performance (Sarason, 1984). However, the specific mechanisms of such negative relationship occurred between anxiety and performance still need to be further examined. Recently, processing efficiency theory and attentional control theory are further studied for attempting to explain the anxiety-performance relationship specifically in the areas of working memory and executive functions. Based on the research findings (Eysenck & Calvo, 1992), there are two theoretical assumptions for the processing efficiency theory: (1) anxiety impairs processing efficiency more than performance effectiveness, and (2) anxiety impairs the central executive system of working memory. Whereas, attentional control theory is a major development of processing efficiency theory (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007). Accordingly, there are also two theoretical assumptions for attentional control theory: (1) anxiety impairs goal-directed attentional system, (2) anxiety impairs efficiency of inhibition and shifting functions. Evidently, processing efficiency theory and attentional control theory both provide the useful frameworks to explain the specific mechanisms of anxiety-performance relationship, which is an imperative topic in sport psychology. Thus, the main purpose of this presentation is twofold: (1) to review the empirical research studies based on these two theories and (2) to recommend the implications for future research. Hopefully, our presentation would promote to further examine other anxiety-performance theories, improve the consistency of research protocol, take the cognitive perspectives into consideration of our research endeavor, and pay more attention to the effect of state anxiety for the purpose of enriching applied research literature.

Key words: anxiety, processing efficiency, attentional control, inhibition, shifting