Investigating the Experience of Psychological Automaticity During Peak Performance in Australian Elite Athletes
Ruth Anderson, Stephanie J. Hanrahan, and Clifford J. Mallett
The University of Queensland
The aim of this study was to explore the nature of automaticity in competition and investigate the psychological processes that facilitate automaticity during peak performance. Elite athletes (n = 17) and coaches (n = 6) from rowing, swimming, and diving engaged in retrospective and semi structured interviews about automaticity in competition. An interpretational qualitative data analysis indicated that elite athletes experience an automatic state during peak performances, and automaticity was found to have a positive influence on performance results. A model was developed that identified self-regulation, control, trust, and adaptability as psychological processes that facilitate the transition for athletes from experiencing a diversity of psychological states prior to performance to the automatic state required for peak performance. The study highlighted the opportunity for further research to explore ways the automatic state could be measured in competition and define the critical psychological strategies required for athletes to achieve automaticity consistently in competition.