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Since the 1890s, the field of applied sport psychology has gained increasing visibility within the sport and exercise science, psychology, and mainstream communities. Associated with this enhanced visibility has been an increase in the numbers of education and training pathways, registration and licensure schemes, and people offering services. At the same time, there has also been increasing recognition that applied practitioners operate in a range of domains, including sport, where there is a need for clients to respond to stressful, often competitive, environmental demands and perform to high levels, such as the performing arts and music, business, medicine, the military, and public speaking. These practitioners do not need to be interested in sport, and they come from a diverse range of backgrounds.
As sport and performance psychologists have emerged and formed a loose and porous community, researchers have documented their technical and personal competencies, the ways in which they help clients, the principles guiding their development toward expertise, and some of the ethical and other demands placed on them as helping professionals. This knowledge can be used to identify ways that these individuals can be helped to develop their knowledge, skills, and character so they can form salubrious relationships with clients and assist performers across various domains to achieve their goals and resolve issues.
Kate F. Hays
Performance psychology addresses issues of optimal performance across a wide range of fields. Optimal performance can be enhanced via psychological methods; psychology also addresses the mental barriers and detriments to performance.
One major performance arena is the performing arts. The performing arts include music, dance, and theatre arts. In some instances, people are performing live in front of an audience; in other situations, their performance is prepared for a future audience (e.g., movie, TV, or video).
A number of psychological aspects need to be addressed to produce optimal performance: flawless performance, optimal arousal, focus maintenance, competition and perfectionism, and artistic expression.
Much of the knowledge concerning the enhancement of performance is derived from the field of sport psychology. Some common concerns include the management of performance arousal, developmental issues in relation to early training, injury recovery, and transitions within or out of the performance arena. Although many concerns and expectations are similar with regard to the end “product” of excellent performance, there are also vast differences in such aspects as the culture of the performing arts, historical roots, purpose of the activity, resources and supports, and the place of the particular performance arena within the larger culture. Both research and practice opportunities are increasingly of interest to academicians, practitioners, and performing artists themselves.
Sarah E. Hampson
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Although the belief that personality is linked to health goes back at least to Greek and Roman times, the scientific study of these links began in earnest only during the last century. The field of psychosomatic medicine, growing out of psychoanalysis, accepted that the body and the mind were closely connected. For a time, the medical world was captivated by the idea that Type A personality was related to cardiovascular disease. However, by the end of the 20th century, the application of modern, scientific conceptions of personality to the understanding of health and health behavior created a thriving field addressing the role personality plays in health and illness. The widespread acceptance of the five-factor model of personality traits, and the reliable and valid measures of personality traits that became available, transformed the study of personality and health. Of the Big Five broad domains of personality (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness), the most dramatic and consistent findings in relation to health have been obtained for conscientiousness (i.e., people who are reliable, restrained, hard-working). Children and adults who are more conscientious have better health and live longer lives than those who are less conscientious. Conscientious individuals engage in more health-enhancing and fewer health-damaging behaviors, which accounts for some, but by no means all, of the association between this trait and better health outcomes including longevity.
Recent developments in the independent fields of personality psychology and health psychology have influenced contemporary approaches to the study of personality and health. Personality traits are no longer viewed as stable across adulthood, but as developing across the entire life span. Researchers are examining the influence of personality change on health. Recognizing the complex, reciprocal influences between personality and health, researchers are also examining how changes in health may lead to changes in personality. A range of health outcomes, wider than ever before, is now available. In addition to disease diagnoses and longevity, there are numerous biomarkers that are risk factors for disease and death that can be studied. Changes on these biomarkers, such as inflammation, cortisol activity, and cellular aging, can be used to chart health in relation to personality traits and to test underlying theoretical models. Recognizing that both personality and health are moving targets necessitates longitudinal studies and a life-span perspective guided by sophisticated models of the relationship between personality and health.
Jesús F. Salgado
Personnel selection is one of the most critical processes in the study of human work behavior because it determines the efficacy of many other issues of human resource management (e.g., training, productivity, and culture). From this perspective, personnel selection is a process of decision-making, and its main objective is to predict the future performance of potential employees. In order to achieve this objective, personnel selection identifies the individual requirements of job performance and uses a variety of assessment procedures, including cognitive ability tests, personality inventories, interviews, job knowledge tests, situational judgment tests, job experience, work sample tests, assessment centers, biodata, and reference checks. Using the best combination of predictors, currently, scientific personnel selection is capable of predicting and explaining over 60% of job performance variance based on individual differences.
Ryan E. Rhodes and Patrick Boudreau
The physical, psychological, and economic benefits of regular moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity are well substantiated. Unfortunately, few people in developed countries engage in enough physical activity to reap these benefits. Thus, a strong theoretical understanding of what factors are associated with physical activity is warranted in order to create effective and targeted interventions. Social/ecological approaches to understanding physical activity demonstrate the breadth of correlates that encompass intra-individual, inter-individual, environmental, and policy-related variables in physical activity performance. One longstanding intrapersonal correlate of interest is the relationship between personality traits—enduring individual-level differences in tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions—and physical activity.
Personality trait theories are broad in focus and differ in terms of proposed etiology, yet much of the recent research in physical activity has been with super traits in the five-factor model: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Meta-analytic reviews suggest that conscientiousness and extraversion are positively associated with physical activity with some mixed evidence for a small negative relationship with neuroticism. The effect appears to be most pronounced with vigorous physical activities and less so with lower-intensity lifestyle activities and shows mixed evidence for whether proximal social cognitive variables (intention, self-efficacy) can mediate this relationship. More specific sub-traits show that facets of extraversion (excitement-seeking, activity) or conscientiousness (self-discipline, industriousness/ambition) have larger and more specific associations with particular types of physical activity or moderate key processes like the intention-behavior gap. Furthermore, personality appears to be linked to higher-intensity and adventure activities more than lower-intensity leisure physical activities. Contemporary longitudinal assessments of the bi-directionality of personality and physical activity have begun to advance our understanding of interconnectedness. Interventions that target personality traits to improve physical activity have been relatively understudied but hold some promise when used in tandem with larger theoretical approaches and behavioral change strategies.
Stephen H. Boutcher
Cardiovascular disease has been estimated to be responsible for over 30% of deaths worldwide. The traditional cardiovascular risk factors of smoking, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, and family history predict about 50% of the variance of new cardiovascular disease cases; therefore, a number of other risk factors must contribute to cardiovascular disease development. One such factor is psychological stress, which has been identified as playing a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. The major research strategy for assessing the impact of psychological stress on cardiovascular disease development is to measure cardiovascular reactivity to laboratory mental stressors. Exaggerated mental stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity and slow stressor recovery have been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease.
In contrast to exposure to psychological stress, there is strong evidence that participation in aerobic exercise leads to a reduction in cardiovascular disease. Participation in regular aerobic exercise generally reduces the cardiovascular response to acute exercise; therefore, researchers have hypothesized that the ability of aerobic exercise to enhance cardiovascular health works partly by modifying the cardiovascular reactivity response to mental stressors. There is mixed evidence to suggest that chronic aerobic exercise decreases or increases cardiovascular reactivity to mental challenge in normotensive, healthy individuals. A decrease in reactivity, however, has been found in those studies that have examined individuals at risk of disease or diseased adults. The optimal volume and intensity of aerobic exercise that brings about maximum decreases in cardiovascular reactivity has yet to be determined. The impact of other forms of exercise on reactivity such as resistance exercise and interval sprinting exercise is starting to be assessed. The challenge for researchers in this area is to identify the mode of exercise that takes the least amount of time but brings about the greatest reduction of levels of stress-induced cardiovascular disease.
Jennifer L. Etnier
There is substantial interest in identifying the behavioral means by which to improve cognitive performance. Recent research and commercial ventures have focused on cognitive training interventions, but evidence suggests that the effects of these programs are small and task-specific. Researchers have also shown interest in exploring the potential benefits of physical activity for cognitive performance. Because the effects of physical activity have been found to be small to moderate and to be more global in nature, interest in physical activity has been growing over the past several decades. Evidence regarding the efficacy of physical activity is provided through cross-sectional studies, longitudinal prospective studies, and randomized controlled trials. When reviewed meta-analytically, small-to-moderate beneficial effects are reported for children, adults, older adults, and cognitively impaired older adults, and these effects are evident for a wide range of cognitive domains, including executive function, memory, and information processing. Researchers are currently focused on identifying the mechanisms of these effects. Most of this research has been conducted using animal models, but there is a growing body of literature with humans. From this evidence, there is support for the role of changes in cerebral structure, hippocampal perfusion, and growth factors in explaining the observed benefits. Thus far, however, the literature is quite sparse, and future research is needed to clarify our understanding of the mechanisms that provide the causal link between physical activity and cognitive performance. Research is also focused on understanding how to increase the benefits by potentially combining cognitive training with physical activity and by identifying the genetic moderators of the effects. These lines of work are designed to elucidate ways of increasing the magnitude of the benefits that can be obtained. At this point in time, the evidence with respect to the potential of physical activity for benefiting cognitive performance is quite promising, but it is critical that funding agencies commit their support to the continued exploration necessary to allow us to ultimately be able to prescribe physical activity to specific individuals with the express purpose of improving cognition.
Sayaka Aritake-Okada and Sunao Uchida
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.
Physical activity has been considered to promote sleep. So far, a number of studies have indicated that both acute and chronic physical activity improve sleep. These changes include prolongation of total sleep time, slow wave sleep (SWS) increase, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep decrease, wake after sleep onset (WASO) reduction, and shortened sleep latency. However, detailed biological mechanisms of these effects have not been well elucidated. Moreover, some reported high-intensity physical activity just before bedtime could reduce the amount of subsequent SWS.
These past studies strongly suggest that the sleep promoting effects of exercise could be multifactorial. Increase of SWS, which has been repeatedly reported, strongly suggest an effect of physical activity on the central nervous system (CNS) function. Physical activity also elevates body temperature (BT) and alters glucose and other metabolic regulations. Habitual exercise also alters the predominance measure of the autonomic nervous system by heart rate variability (HRV). Elucidation of these mechanisms could lead to clearer application of physical activity for prevention and treatment of diseases associated with adult lifestyle habits, such as Type II diabetes.
Scott O. Lilienfeld
Although psychotherapy is on balance effective for a broad array of psychological problems, a relatively small but steadily accumulating body of evidence suggests that at least some psychological interventions are harmful. Until recently, however, relatively little research attention has been paid to the identification of harmful psychological treatments. Although it has long been recognized that a nontrivial minority of people become worse following therapy, this finding does not necessarily mean that they have become worse because of therapy. Nevertheless, recent research has homed in on a small subset of interventions that may produce psychological harm, physical harm, or both. In addition, there is growing interest in pinpointing potential mechanisms of deterioration effects in psychotherapy, as well as in distinguishing harmful therapies from harmful therapists.
Mary V. Minges and Jacques P. Barber
Psychodynamic psychotherapies (PDP) is an umbrella term for a variety of therapeutic modalities that have evolved out of the psychoanalytic/psychodynamic tradition, each theorizing a trajectory of human development that includes an etiology of and treatment for psychopathology. PDPs have in common the belief that people have an unconscious mind that influences thoughts and behaviors outside of the individual’s awareness. These processes operate from birth till death and are responsible for adaptive and maladaptive functioning at the level of interpersonal relationships and daily living.
The psychodynamic therapist creates a case formulation for the individual seeking treatment, which incorporates a formal diagnosis with an understanding of the underlying dynamic factors contributing to the individual’s suffering. From this case formulation a treatment plan is created specific to the individual. During treatment, the therapist develops a strong working alliance while utilizing psychodynamic-specific techniques targeted at bringing insight into these unconscious thoughts and behaviors. Greater self-understanding enables greater choice ability and flexibility in functioning.
In contrast to prevalent views, empirical research has found support for the efficacy of PDP in the treatment of mental disorders, including but not limited to: depression, anxiety disorders, somatic disorders, and personality disorders. In general, PDP was found more effective than control conditions and not different from active treatments. PDP effects have been shown to remain stable post treatment.