Posted 08/26/2021 in Category 1

Multidimensional Anxiety Theory

Multidimensional Anxiety Theory

Work on competitive state anxiety research has largely been driven by the work of Martens and colleagues who developed the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2) and published it alongside a Multidimensional Theory of Competitive State Anxiety (MAT; Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump & Smith, 1990). The CSAI-2 was originally developed to assess cognitive and somatic anxiety, but an additional cognitive factor (self-confidence) emerged during the development. The CSAI-2 therefore provides scores for cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and self-confidence. According to MAT cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and self-confidence relate to performance differently.  Specifically, cognitive anxiety has a negative linear relationship, self-confidence a positive linear relationship and somatic anxiety an inverted-U relationship with performance.  Because the CSAI-2 and MAT were published simultaneously the theory and the measurement tool are linked – perhaps more closely than is ideal. Because of this limitations in one may affect the other and it is difficult to know if unsupportive research findings are because of limitations in the theory, or the measuring tool, or both.  We shall now consider two aspects of this research.  First whether the predictions of MAT hold up and second whether the CSAI-2 is a valid measure of anxiety. 


There has been some support for the central tenets of MAT.  For example, a sample of swimmers, showed a curvilinear trend, similar to the inverted-U, between somatic anxiety and performance, a negative linear trend between cognitive anxiety and performance and a positive relationship between self-confidence and performance (Burton, 1988). Further Burton also concluded that cognitive anxiety is more consistently and strongly related to performance than somatic anxiety.  However, there has also been some conflicting evidence. For example, in a sample of pistol shooters a curvilinear trend, similar to the inverted-U, between somatic anxiety and performance was seen but no significant relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance was observed and there was a negative relationship between self-confidence and performance (Gould et al., 1997). 


Collectively empirical support for the predictions of MAT has been equivocal (e.g., Craft et al., 2003; Woodman & Hardy, 2001).  Of particular relevance is the meta-analysis by Craft et al., who collected data from 29 studies and explored the linear relationship between cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, self-confidence and performance.  While MAT outlines that cognitive anxiety and self-confidence should relate to performance in a linear manner (negatively and positively respectively) it suggests the relationship between somatic anxiety and performance should be curvilinear, in the shape of an inverted-U.  So the data from this meta-analysis is only a partial test of the predication of MAT. What Craft et al., found was:

  • No linear relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance.
  • No linear relationship between somatic anxiety and performance
  • Positive relationship between self-confidence and performance (mean r = 0.25).

    

In short, there is only support for the predications made by MAT for self-confidence and there is no support for the predications made for cognitive anxiety.  The predications made for somatic anxiety and performance were not tested but researchers who have explored whether a curvilinear relationship exists between somatic anxiety and performance have found support for the inverted-U relationship predicted by MAT (e.g., Burton, 1988; Gould et al., 1987; Woodman, Albinson & Hardy, 1997). 


Craft and colleagues further analysed the relationship between the sub-scales of the CSAI-2 and key variables.  While the relationship between self-confidence and performance was consistent across sports, both cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety seem more influential in individual sport. Interestingly, data from the highest level of athlete (national level or higher) showed a positive relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance and somatic anxiety and performance. Suggesting for this particular group of athletes at least that anxiety may be helpful for performance.   


One interesting finding is that cognitive anxiety and self-confidence relate to performance differently and this is contrary to Martens et al., (1990) suggestion that cognitive anxiety and self-confidence are at opposite ends of the same continuum. If they were then they should relate to performance with a similar level of strength but in an opposite direction. That is, if cognitive anxiety impairs performance then self-confidence should enhance it in a similar way.  However, this was a misinterpretation by Martens et al of their data when developing the CSAI-2 (Parfitt et al., 1990). Factor analysis (a statistical technique) was used to identify which items participants responded too in a similar way and the results identified three separate groups of items – these were named cognitive anxiety (negatively phrased items of outcome expectation), somatic anxiety and self-confidence (positively phrased items of outcome expectations).  Because some of the items were phrased positively and some were phrased negatively it did not mean they were assessing the same construct - but in an opposite way. This can happen of course, and to illustrate item 14 on the CSAI-2 (I feel relaxed) assess somatic anxiety but is phrased in an opposite manner to all the other items on the scale which is why it is reverse scored. Yet people who answer high on this score low on all the other somatic anxiety items and vice versa which illustrates it is assessing the same construct. However, people who score high on the items assessing cognitive anxiety do not necessarily score low on the self-confidence subscale and vice versa.  To illustrate the correlation of -.48 between the cognitive anxiety and self-confidence subscale of the CSAI-2 illustrates that there is less of a relationship between these two subscales than the correlation between cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety of .518. (Martens et al.,1990).


In short, it is probably correct to say that the relationship between anxiety and performance is a little more complex than outlined in MAT.  While there is support for some of MAT’s predications (e.g., somatic anxiety does appear to have a curvilinear relationship with performance) this relationship does not appear to be consistent across all groups of athletes (e.g., national level athletes). 


Perhaps one of the reasons why support for MAT is equivocal is that much of it has utilised the CSAI-2 (Martens et al., 1990) and in recent years the construct validity of the CSAI-2 has been questioned.  Broadly, the somatic anxiety subscale assesses changes in arousal that may accompany other emotions such as excitement or anger (Kerr, 1997), whereas the cognitive anxiety subscale largely assesses if an athlete acknowledges the importance and difficulty of the competition and are mobilizing resources to cope (Lane et al., 1999).  In a test of these predictions Jones and Uphill (2004) asked university athletes to imagine a scenario whereby they were about to compete in the most important competition of the season and to then complete the CSAI-2 as if they were either highly anxious (n = 83) or highly excited (n = 87).  Although it was possible to differentiate participants from the “anxiety” and “excited” groups on the basis of the scores from the CSAI-2 mean intensity scores, both the cognitive and somatic anxiety sub-scales from the excited group were substantially higher than the norms reported by Martens et al., (1990). In short, individuals may score highly on the cognitive and somatic anxiety intensity subscales of the CSAI-2 if they are experiencing an emotion (e.g., excitement) other than anxiety.


Because of concerns that the CSAI-2 does not adequately capture the competitive anxiety experience of performers several researchers have advocated using a modified version of the CSAI-2 that incorporates a directional subscale. The CSAI-2(d), measures not only the intensity of symptoms (as assessed by the original CSAI-2) but also considers the perception of these symptoms (e.g., Jones, 1995; Jones & Swain, 1992).  This directional subscale provides a measure of whether the symptoms reported on the cognitive and somatic anxiety subscales are perceived as being facilitative or debilitative to performance.  This modification of the CSAI-2 allows researchers to test the control model of debilitative and facilitative competitive state anxiety outlines that athletes with a positive belief in their ability to cope, and of goal attainment, will interpret anxiety symptoms as facilitative (helpful), whereas those with negative expectancies will interpret their symptoms as debilitative (unhelpful) to performance (Jones, 1995). Both elite and successful competitors have reported more facilitative perceptions of anxiety symptoms in comparison to non-elite and unsuccessful competitors respectively, when no differences in anxiety intensity levels were present (Jones & Swain, 1995; Jones, Swain, & Hardy, 1993). More recent work has extended this line of inquiry to consider a broader range of emotions. Athletes who perceive their anxiety symptoms as facilitative to performance report more positive feelings (e.g., excited, relaxed) and less negative feelings (e.g., tense, angry) than athletes who perceive their anxiety symptoms as debilitative to performance (Jones & Hanton, 2001; Mellalieu et al., 2003). Other negative emotions may also be perceived as helpful to performance, such as a boxer perceiving a high level of anger as useful for performance (Jones, Meijen, McCarthy & Sheffield, 2009). In sum, research has generally supported the tenets of Jones’ theory, and that athletes with a positive perception of anxiety symptoms perform better (see Hanton, Neil & Mellalieau, 2008 for a review). Yet, the conceptual worth of this research has recently been questioned, and a positive perception of symptoms may simply represent the absence of any real levels of perceived anxiety (Lundqvist, Kentta & Raglin, 2010). That is, Lundqvist et al. found in a sample of 84 Swedish athletes that the majority of anxiety items identified as facilitative for performance were rated at an intensity of ‘‘Not at all” and it is the absence of any perceived anxiety for these items which is probably the main reason the athletes in this sample rated them as facilitative to performance. 


One further limitation of MAT is that it considers the relationship between cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and performance in a series of two dimensional relationships (Hardy, 1990). But athletes are rarely cognitive anxious in the absence of somatic anxiety and vice versa, so how cognitive anxiety relates to performance may be influenced by somatic anxiety and how somatic anxiety relates to performance may be influenced by cognitive anxiety. The work of Hardy and colleagues into catastrophe models of anxiety and performance (Hardy, 1990; Hardy & Fazey, 1987) addresses this issue.  


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References

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Gould, D., Petlichkoff, L., Simons, J. & Vevera, M.  (1987).  Relationship between Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 subscale scores and pistol shooting performance, Journal of Sport Psychology, 9, 33-42.

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