Cortisol’s effect on selective attention to emotional stimuli in athletes

Publikation: Beitrag in Buch/Bericht/KonferenzbandKonferenzbeitrag - Abstract in KonferenzbandForschungBegutachtung


In all sport settings an athlete needs to be able to focus attention on task-relevant information in order to perform successfully (Mann et al., 2007). Cortisol is known to impact cognitive processing, that is the processing of emotional information (i.e., selective attention; see Putman & Roelofs, 2011 for a review). So far, research has shown that athletes performed better in varied attention paradigms (i.e., focusing attention on task-relevant stimuli; see Voss et al., 2010 for a meta-analysis). Nevertheless, information that is task-irrelevant but still emotionally significant for the athlete, such as worries about performance can distract from relevant information (i.e., focus on the task at hand) and influence performance (distraction theory; Baumeister & Showers, 1986). Therefore, studying the impact of emotional task-irrelevant information is particularly applicable and of great importance for competitive settings; and yet, still missing. In regard to the theoretical predictions of the cognitive processing hypothesis and empirical data (Putman & Roelofs, 2011), cortisol helps redirecting attentional focus. We aimed to investigate whether the same effect, that is allocating attention away from emotional stimuli due to higher levels of cortisol, thereby reducing the Stroop interference effect, can be found in athletes in regard to emotional stimuli that are of interest in the sport setting (e.g., words such as loser, winner). In a mixed design, 68 male golfers (Mage = 25.5±4.1) participated. Cortisol was measured eight times during the experiment and was increased due to the cold-pressor test (0–4°C water temperature; Cahill, Gorski, & Le, 2003). The control group had to put their underarm in warm water (35–39°C). Before and after, participants were asked to perform a cognitive performance task (i.e., emotional Stroop task using validated emotional sport words). As data is currently being analyzed, results and a discussion presenting also a new theoretical framework will be presented orally.
TitelSport Psychology–Theories and Applications for Performance, Health and Humanity : 14th European Congress of Sport Psychology
ISBN (Print)978-3-88020-621-2
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2015