Virtual reality (VR) has created opportunities to innovatively re-imagine the way we examine the relations between pressure, competition anxiety and performance. This study aimed to determine the efficacy of VR as a means of measuring the effects of competition anxiety when pressure manipulations are applied while participants bat in a cricket batting VR simulator. The twenty-eight male participants who took part in two experiments were divided into a high (14, mean age: 22.94, SD: 5.4) and a low skill group (14; mean age: 23.55, SD: 9.9). The aim of the first experiment was to validate the VR simulator as a tool that could capture differences in batting performance between a high and low skilled group. The results showed that high skill participants not only scored significantly higher run rates than low skill participants, but they outperformed the low skill group in all performance measures including higher incidences of correct foot placements that reflect better anticipatory responses. Having established the VR batting simulator as being a reliable tool for capturing batting dynamics, experiment 2 aimed to explore the effects of a pressure manipulation on competition anxiety and batting performance. All measures of competition anxiety were significantly greater for both groups in the high-pressure condition compared to the two low-pressure conditions (p < 0.001). The magnitude of this effect was greater in the low skill group for cognitive (0.59) and somatic (0.794) anxiety. Despite anxiety levels significantly increasing in the high-pressure condition, no significant negative changes to batting performance were found for either group, with both groups actually demonstrating performance improvements. Overall, the findings show how a cricket batting virtual reality simulator can be used as a tool to measure the effects of pressure on competition anxiety and batting performance in tasks involving dynamic skill execution.
|Journal||Psychology of Sport and Exercise|
|Early online date||5 Jul 2022|
|Publication status||Published (in print/issue) - 30 Nov 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Approval for the study was granted by the research ethics board at the University of Limerick. The same participants, VR task and game design as in Experiment 1 were also used in Experiment 2.Our first hypothesis was that pressure manipulations would lead to increases in physiological and psychological responses for both highly skilled (HS) and low skilled (LS) participants. The findings showed an increase in cognitive and somatic anxiety, investment of mental effort and average and max heart rates, during the HP condition. Both skill groups also experienced significant reductions in their perceptions of control in the HP condition. The regression of scores back to their baseline from HP to LP2 for both skill groups provides support that our experimental manipulations of pressure and anxiety worked with some degree of success in elite and non-elite participants. However, moderate effect sizes suggest that there was a more marked increase in the LS group in cognitive and somatic anxiety. This was perhaps due to the HS group having extensive practice hours in the sport and exposure to facing international level bowlers in the past. These findings are consistent with the literature positing increases in mental effort under increased anxiety (Eyesenck & Calvo, 1992) and provide support for the inclusion of a regulatory dimension in anxiety related models (Cheng et al., 2009; Jones et al., 2019). Such models are moving away from an intensity only approach and instead facilitate the adaptive potential of the anxiety response (Cheng & Hardy, 2016). Overall, findings support research attesting to the prevalence of competition anxiety in highly skilled populations (Gouttebarge, et al., 2019) and confirmed our hypothesis that regardless of skill level, individuals can experience significant rises in competition anxiety when under pressure.
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd
- Pressure manipulation
- Virtual reality