Content, characteristics and function of mental images

Abstract : Objectives: The goal of this article is to better understand the use of mental imagery by athletes. Design: Exploratory qualitative study followed by interviews with multimedia assessment tool. Method: A first qualitative study was completed with two expert skydivers. The model obtained by the first study was tested in a second quantitative study with 32 skydivers. A multimedia tool was programmed to test the model so that films representing various content (internal or external views), characteristics (e.g., speed) and functions (e.g., to learn, to manage stress) was displayed during interviews in the second study. Results: Results of the first study suggested that the use of imagery can be functionally explained by three related elements: content (what is visualized), characteristics (how it is visualized) and functions (why it is visualized) of mental images. Results of the second study showed that the content and the characteristics of imagery are linked to the function sought. Moreover, we found that the mental images used (content, characteristics and functions) varied according to the level of expertise (novice, confirmed or experts) and with the situation (when preparing for the jump, before jumping out of the plane or after the jump). Conclusions: These results supplement the current stream of study, which has emphasized structural description of mental imagery since 1985. Our findings suggest that future research should build on structural dimensions of mental imagery and examine functional issues, because functional aspects have proved useful for understanding imagery use and for counseling athletes.
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Jean F. Fournier, Sophie Deremaux, Marjorie Bernier. Content, characteristics and function of mental images. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Elsevier, 2008, 9 (6), pp.734 - 748. ⟨10.1016/j.psychsport.2007.12.003⟩. ⟨hal-01826205⟩

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