Performance psychology

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Performance psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses upon the factors that allow individuals, teams, and groups to achieve their aims. It engages the performer on how to be successful by developing the power of the mind and to practice mental skills training in their daily lives.[1]

The training that underpins the psychology of performance has been researched and scientifically proven over many decades and is perfect grounding for those other performers in business; others in the performing arts such as dance, music, entertainment and the stage who wish to deliver an exceptional performance when it really matters and other professionals such as entrepreneurs, medical and legal professions, small business owners,and many more.[2]

Sports psychology[edit]

Main article: Sports psychology


Sports psychology dates back to the late 1800 and early 1900s. Norman Triplett conducted the first experiment in sports psychology in 1897 by studying the performance of cyclist in groups. Carl Diem founded the world's first sports psychology lab in 1920. Coleman Griffith opened the first lab in North America at the University of Illinois in 1925 where he began his research on factors that affect sports psychology. The International Society of Sports Psychology was formed by Dr. Ferrucio Antonelli from Italy in 1965. In the 1970s sports psychology became a part of many college curricula. In the 1980s, sports psychologist began focusing their research on psychological effects on sports and exercise, training and stress management. Sports psychology is used extensively in professional sports.[3][4]

Training techniques and mental skills[edit]

Sports psychology focuses on teaching practical skills to athletes to enable them to develop their mental abilities to the same level as their physical abilities. Mental skills training focuses upon core skills such as concentration, anxiety control, goal setting, motivation, relaxation techniques, imagery, and self-confidence. In addition, your ability to perform consistently is often determined by the consistency of your emotions. When you learn to respond positively to challenges that you are presented with, your performance in training and in competitions will be affected by your emotional reactions to those challenges. Therefore if you can master your emotions, you will have the power to use those emotions as a tool to facilitate individual and team performance.[5]

Business psychology[edit]

Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I-O) is the study of relationship between man and the world of work. Blum & Naylor (1968) defined it as the application of psychological facts and principles to the problems concerning people operating within the context of business and industry. Stemming from social psychology, psychologists examine the role of the work environment in performance and other outcomes including job satisfaction and health. This branch first appeared during World War I in response to the need to rapidly assign new troops to duty stations. After the War, I-O Psychology was used widespread. Walter Scott(1919) was the most influential I-O Psychologist along with James Cattell (1895) and Hugo Musterberg (1898) in the early development of the field. Organizational Psychology became prominent after World War II and was influenced by the Hawthorne studies.[6]

Characteristics of peak performers[edit]

The characteristics (called the five fundamental peak performance proficiencies) of peak performers, cut across all performance arenas. Whether it be attitude, motivation, preparation, concentration, the ability to enter the flow state, coachability, being a team player, leadership, or the ability to relax under pressure, the peak performer possesses common elements under any conditions. These fundamental proficiencies are: awareness of the self in all domains, control of effort, visualization, cognitive skills, and self-programming.

These five fundamental peak performance proficiencies are master skills that all top achievers have in their performance toolkits. The individual performing at peak has learned and mastered them and knows how to apply them in particular situations and also can creatively adapt them in new and unusual situations.[7]


In Dr. Edwin Locke's 1968 research article "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives", he states that employees are motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback. He went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal – which, in turn, improved performance. Locke's research showed that there was a relationship between how difficult and specific a goal was and people's performance of a task. He found that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals. In 1990, Lock and Latham published their book called A Theory of Goal-Setting and Task Performance outlining five principles of goal-setting.

To motivate goals must have:

  • Clarity
  • Challenge
  • Commitment
  • Feedback
  • Task Complexity

It is recommended that you set performance goals rather than outcome goals so that it is easier to control. Outcome goals may not be under your control if they depend on other people's actions.[8]

Setting intrinsically motivating goals builds behavior that you see as an end in itself. Reinforcement or punishment that results from your behavior provides extrinsic motivation. Setting extrinsically motivating goals builds behavior that you see as a means to an end.[9]



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