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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Health and Human Development
Anxiety is an emotion frequently experienced by athletes in competitive situations (Lazarus, 2000). Attentional control theory (Eysenck et al., 2007) explains that anxiety affects performance by occupying limited attentional resources, which reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of athletes. Efficient gaze patterns are linked to high levels of performance (e.g., Vickers, 1992). As athletes become more anxious, their gaze patterns become less efficient; specifically, they have more fixations of shorter duration and shorter quiet eye fixation duration (e.g., Wilson, Vine & Wood, 2009). The purpose of the current study was to test if a common anxiety reduction intervention, the diaphragmatic breath, affects the anxiety, gaze efficiency, and performance of novice golfers completing a golf putting task. Currently, there is no research to support that a single diaphragmatic breath can aid performance, affect gaze patterns, and reduce anxiety of novices during competition, though sport psychology practitioners commonly apply this intervention. Undergraduate university students (n=30) with little to no golf putting experience and normal vision were block randomized into diaphragmatic breath (DB) and control groups. The protocol consisted of completing a pretest block of 20 putts, an intervention, 60 practice putts, then a posttest block of 20 putts where their anxiety was manipulated. The DB group was taught to take a diaphragmatic breath before each putt. Diaphragmatic breathing instructions were adapted from Lehrer, Vaschillo, and Vaschillo’s (2000) abdominal breathing manual. Anxiety was measured using the somatic and cognitive subscales of the Mental Readiness Form-3 (MRF-3: Krane), which were administered after each putt. Gaze efficiency was measured using Tobii Pro Glasses 2. No statistically significant multivariate effects of the grouped independent variables on the grouped dependent variables were found. Results also showed no statistically significant interaction effect for group and time on anxiety or performance, suggesting that the diaphragmatic breath intervention did not manage participant anxiety levels or affect the performance of the DB group compared to the control group. While not statistically significant, a large effect size was found for the interaction of group and time on average fixation length, and a moderate effect size was found for the interaction of group and time on quiet eye duration. Trends in the data showed that the control groups’ average fixation duration and quiet eye duration increased, while the DB groups’ average fixation duration and average quiet eye duration increased. These findings suggest that implementing a diaphragmatic breath intervention does not seem to manage anxiety or enhance gaze efficiency. While more research is needed on the effects of DB on anxiety, performance, and gaze efficiency, trends in the data from the current study suggest that a single DB may not be an effective strategy for novices faced with pressure situations in sport.
Western Washington University
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Nichols, Mason B. (Mason Burk), "Effects of a Single Diaphragmatic Breath on Anxiety, Gaze, and Performance" (2017). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. 600.