Sunday, 4 September 2011

Catastrophe Theory

The Catastrophe theory is a development of the Inverted U theory. In Inverted U theory, there is a steady fall-off in performance following over-arousal. the Catastrophe theory however is a theory of arousal that predicts a rapid decline in performance resulting from the combination of high cognitive anxiety and increasing somatic anxiety.
In reality the Catastrophe theory is more a model than a theory in that it attempts to predict human behaviour and performance rather than explaining how it occurs. the model proposes that performance is affected by the relationship between somatic (Physical) anxiety and cognitive (Mental) anxiety. when cognitive anxiety is high but somatic anxiety is low performance is enhanced however when both cognitive and somatic anxiety are high, performance can suddenly deteriorate. Following this sudden decrease in performance, the performer tries to regain control by decreasing arousal. when they attempt to do this, their performance doesn't immediately return to its original level but remains low and only gradually starts to rise as arousal and anxiety returns to much lower levels. it is also possible that performance will continue to deteriorate.

An example of this is Rory Mcilroy's
 collapse at the Masters golfing event in 2011.
According to this multi-dimensional view of arousal, a high level of cognitive anxiety accompanied by low somatic anxiety is beneficial to the performers performance. the performer normally has a low somatic anxiety some days before the event. as the event gets closer the somatic anxiety builds until it reaches a peak. the somatic anxiety then normally declines as the event begins. If the somatic anxiety doesn't decreases or it increases again during the event the performer may suffer a catastrophic decline in performance and they literally "Fall-Apart". 

Inverted U theory

The Inverted U theory was developed in 1908 by Yerkes and Dodson and it is a theory of arousal that considers that optimal performance occurs when the performer reaches an optimal level of arousal.

The Inverted U theory seems to fit more accurately with observations of performance than the Drive theory. According to the theory performance will improve as arousal increases until it reaches a point where optimum performance is achieved, and arousal is at its optimum level. if arousal increases beyond this point, performance will begin to deteriorate as seen on the image to the right.

  1. In many ways this theory fits into the observations from sport performers but in reality is too simplistic and so the theory has to be adapted to answer two questions:Does Inverted U theory apply equally to expert performers and beginners?
  2. Does it apply to all sports performances in the same way?

In respect to the first question, research explains many reasons why beginners are not able to perform as strong as experts as levels of arousal increase:

  •   A beginner the skill is less groomed and so is not habitual which is similar to Hull and his Drive theory.
  •  Beginners tend to need a greater proportion of attention to the performance of a skill whereas to an expert the skill is so well practiced that it is performed automatically. When the beginner has a high level of arousal the beginner can get distracted and tends not to give the same amount of attention to the skill and so performance deteriorates. 
  • Beginners rely heavily on cues and signals within the environment to perform the right skills and movements in the right situations and at the right moment. As arousal increases their focus on the essential cues and signal declines and so the beginners lose concentration and are unable to react to the unexpected and performance deteriorates
Therefore beginners normally perform better with lower levels of arousal than an expert would need, although they still need to reach the optimum level of arousal to ensure that optimal performance is likely to occur.

The optimum level of arousal can also vary in relation to the skill being performed. Performers that are involved in activities that incorporate major muscle groups or in a gross skill such as weightlifting, may benefit from having higher levels of arousal, whereas performers that are involved in activities which incorporate finer skills such as snooker or darts may benefit from lower levels of arousal. As you can see from the diagram below, even though some skills require higher or lower levels of arousal a performer can still be under- or over-aroused for their particular skill, with a subsequent deterioration in performance

Drive Theory

This is a theory of arousal that proposes a linear relationship between arousal and performance where as arousal increases so does the quality of performance.
The relationship between
Arousal and Performance

The theory was devised by Hull in 1943. Hull thought that high levels of arousal, such as in competition, would intensify the dominant response and so increasing the quality of performance.

This is only half true though because for an expert the dominant response is likely to be habitual and the correct response and so the theory is proved correct as the quality of performance is increased.
However for a beginner, the dominant response may be incorrect or inaccurate and so a higher level of arousal may lead to a deterioration in performance so the theory is proved wrong.

In 1968 Spence and Spence adapted the theory and tried to quantify its principles. they proposed a equation which described the relationship between habit strength and drive.

Performance = Habit strength x Drive
 P = HD

Drive theory is now considered an inadequate explanation of the relationship between arousal and performance as observation proves that even the most talented and experienced performers suffer a deterioration of performance when arousal reaches a very high level

Even David Beckham has a negative performance after high levels of arousal