- Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton, Austin Swain
Previous research which has examined debilitative and facilitative dimensions of anxiety has tended to adopt a unidimensional anxiety framework and to investigate relationships with academic (cognitive) performance. The major purpose of this study was to employ a multidimensional anxiety framework and to examine ‘intensity’ (i.e. level) and ‘direction’ (i.e. interpretation of level as either debilitative of facilitative) of anxiety symptoms in the context of sports (motor) performance. The individual difference variable of skill level was investigated as a mediator of these responses. Elite (n = 97) and non-elite (n = 114) competitive swimmers completed a modified version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 during the period preceding an important race. The findings showed that there was no difference between the two groups on the intensity of cognitive and somatic anxiety symptoms, but that elite performers interpreted both anxiety states as being more facilitative to performance than the non-elite performers. Furthermore, self-confidence was higher in the elite group. Further analyses investigated differences between those swimmers who reported their anxiety as debilitative and those who reported it as facilitative in the elite and non-elite groups. These showed that anxiety intensity levels were higher in the debilitated than the facilitated swimmers in the non-elite group, but no such differences were evident in the elite group. These findings provide further support for the distinction between intensity and direction of competitive state anxiety symptoms. They also emphasize the importance of skill level as an individual difference variable in the examination of the nature of the competitive anxiety response.