The Catastrophe Theory And How It Affects Our Performance
It is a long held theory in the sporting world that that stress and anxiety generally lead to poor performance: and that such stress can occur at the most important moments to adversely affect the performer’s abilities.
In a study conducted at Coventry and Staffordshire universities, the “Catastrophe Theory” was put to the test to see if it really is something that affects performance.
In the research, 18 healthy and physically active young adults were given two completely identical physical tests – the only difference was that one set of tests were simply a practice while the other set of tests were based within a competitive environment.
The results from the study couldn’t be more clear as it was discovered that not only were the participants’ mental anxiety levels heightened during the competitive tests, it was also the case that their CAT (Coincidence Anticipation Timing) was far worse then when performing in the practice tests. In fact, their loss of CAT became more extreme the more physically demanding and competitive the tests became, while at the same time there was no such drop in CAT during the same tests in practice.
These findings not only suggest that stress and anxiety play a role in performance in intense situations but that they are a decisive factor. Dr Michael Duncan, lead author of the study explains:
“Anxiety in a competitive situation, whether sporting or otherwise, is something everyone can relate to. We’re all familiar with what we call ‘somatic’ anxiety, for example butterflies in the tummy which is the body’s response to tension, but this study is chiefly concerned with the effects of cognitive anxieties such as worry or fear of failure. Our research indicates that heightened cognitive anxiety, brought on by the competitive scenario, really does affect performance abilities in physically active people.”
The study is even more conclusive than previous studies as cognitive responses in performance were analysed as they happened rather than after the event. These findings show how stress and anxiety can impact heavily on performance during important moments, something which isn’t restricted to the sporting environment but also occurs in business too. To discover more about how to develop performance improvement at key moments, you can try out the 2 week free trial of the iPerform performance improvement programme here.