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The Role Of Mental Imagery For An Athlete

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Thinking, or cognition, can be defined as mental activity that goes on the brain when a person is processing information (organizing, understanding, and communicating it to others). Thinking does not only include memory, but much more. When people think, they are not only aware of the information in their brain but are also making decisions about it, comparing it to other information, and using it to solve problems.

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The two types of thinking, often referred as System 1 and System 2, characterize much of how we think and process information. System 1 involves making quick decisions and using cognitive shortcuts, is guided by our innate abilities and personal experiences. System 2 is relatively slow, analytical, and ruled based, is dependent more on our formal educational experiences. When people think, they often have images as well as words in their minds, known as mental imagery. Mental images are mental representations that stand for objects or events and have a picture-like quality. Researchers have found that it takes a longer time to view a mental image that is larger or covers more distance than a smaller, compact one. In the brain, creating a mental image is pretty much the opposite of seeing an actual image.

Mental imagery is key for an athlete, when an athlete imagines him or herself exciting to perfection, he/she is creating neutral brain patterns that are used to engrave in the brain cells. This makes the athlete to perform difficult tasks to their best ability by mentally practicing those tasks first in his or her mind before doing them. Mental imagery is meant to train the players’ mind, therefore teaching the muscles to perform exactly how he/she wish them to perform when asked upon. It’s true that we get better on what we focus on. If an athlete makes the image in their mind of them missing a shot, or how good the other team is, or even fears of injury during a game or practice, it harms his game concentration and will affect the overall outcome. It’s absolutely essential that athletes that want to succeed, visualize success and victory at their finish line.

Steven Balzac, a psychology professor and former fencer says, “If we imagine success, we prepare ourselves for success because that’s what’s in our heads. ” Referring back to system 1 the heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems quickly and make judgments fast and efficient. These strategies shorten decision making and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about their next course of actions will be in a pinch of time. Heuristics are helpful in many situations, but they can also lead to cognitive biases. Such as a police officer, he may have someone at gunpoint who is threatening his and other people’s lives but this guy looks like a relative. The heuristics will tell the officer to not shoot and keep him alive due to his biase option of how this person looks. According to this theory, people can and will also utilize heuristics as a type of cognitive laziness. Heuristics reduce the mental effort that is Idek to make the right choices and decisions. Still other theories argue that heuristics are actually more accurate than they are biased. In other words, we use heuristics because they are fast and usually correct. For example our simple times tables, we use heuristics as a shortcut to getting to the answer faster than having to write it down and do it the right but longer and tedious way.

In conclusion, the mental imagery is used in our everyday live weather you notice it or not. It can improve an athlete’s game or tear them apart. Then in light of the heuristics theory, the brain makes quick, easy, and accurate short cuts as a lazy but effective way of solving everyday problems.

15 April 2020

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