Sunday, 4 September 2011

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


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