A laboratory study on attentional bias as an underlying mechanism affecting the link between cortisol and performance, leading to a discussion on the nature of the stressor (artificial vs. psychosocial)

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Although cortisol is assumed to influence performance by affecting cognition during stressful and competitive situations, to date this assumption has not been tested empirically. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate whether the influence of cortisol on performance is mediated by attentional processing of emotional information. Forty-six male golfers were tested in a mixed design. The cold pressor task (CPT) was used to artificially increase cortisol levels in the experimental group relative to the control group, who had to put their forearm in warm water. Before and after water immersion the golfers performed one-armed 1.5-m puts and completed the Sport Emotional Stroop Task. Cortisol was significantly increased in the experimental group (CPT). Further, a significant decrease in attentional bias toward negative sport words was detected in the CPT group. However, no changes in putting performance due to an increase in cortisol were observed in the CPT group. Regarding the cortisol–performance relationship, the nature of the stressor (i.e., artificial vs. psychoso- cial) seems to play a role, as no connection was found in this study using an artificial stressor, whereas previous research using a psychosocial stressor (e.g., an actual competition) did find a connection. On the basis of these results I cautiously conclude that the subjective appraisal of a stressor, which is arguably higher for a psychosocial stressor, is more relevant for sport performance than just a change in cortisol level. However, as the stress response is psychophysiological in nature, future research should continue to investigate the role of cortisol.
OriginalspracheEnglisch
ZeitschriftPhysiology & behavior
Jahrgang175
Seiten (von - bis)9-15
Seitenumfang7
ISSN0031-9384
DOIs
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2017

ID: 2950882

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