Posted in Category 1

Imagery and Climbing

Jones, M. V., Mace, R. D., Bray, S. R., MacRae, A., & Stockbridge, C. (2002). The impact of motivational imagery on the emotional state and self-efficacy levels of novice climbers.  Journal of Sport Behavior, 25, 57-73.

Aim of the study

    The study examined the impact of an imagery script, comprising motivational general-mastery and motivational general-arousal aspects, on the distress and self-efficacy levels of novice climbers.


The participants comprised 33 females (Mean age = 22.33, SD = 5.63) who were randomly assigned to an experimental group (n = 16) or a control group (n = 17). Participants attended four one-hour sessions (in their groups) in order to prepare them for a climb of a 5.1 meter climbing wall. During the sessions each group received instruction on basic climbing techniques.  The participants in the experimental group were read an imagery script which detailed a successful climb in which the participant was in control of their emotions, felt confident and focused on the task, while participants in the control group engaged in stretching and aerobic exercises.  

    When participants climbed the wall measures of distress and self-efficacy were taken.  Distress was assessed by the Perceived Stress index (Jacobs & Munz, 1968). Self-efficacy was assessed by two items developed specifically for the study, with one assessing participants’ belief that they could climb using the techniques taught and one assessing the belief that they would climb to the best of their ability.  Each climb was videotaped and climbing performance assessed by two qualified mountaineering instructors.  Self-efficacy and distress were measured prior to the climb.  Distress was also measured at two separate points during the climb and after the climb had ended.


The experimental group reported lower average perceived stress levels over the four stages of the climb.  Participants in the experimental group reported a significantly higher belief in their ability to climb using the appropriate techniques they had been taught, while they also reported a higher (although not significantly so) belief in their ability to climb to the best of their ability.



This study demonstrates in a sport setting that imagery can be used to control emotions (e.g., distress) and enhance self-efficacy.  It therefore provides some support for Lang’s (1977, 1979) Bioinformational Theory.  The finding that imagery can also enhance self-efficacy provides support for Bandura’s (1997) suggestion that imaginable experiences are a potential antecedent of self-efficacy.  From an applied perspective it demonstrates that imagery can be used to help athletes reduce negative emotional responses and enhance the belief in their ability to be successful.