Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Craig Hall


The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate what role abstract and concrete construal levels play in sport imagery and how they impact sport performance outcomes. Another major purpose was to provide an introduction to a new mixed methods data analysis approach and to apply the developed methodology in the context of a qualitative study investigating construal levels in sport imagery. Three studies were conducted with these purposes in mind.

The first study describes a mixed methods analysis of spontaneous sport imagery. 12 elite athletes participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences with imagery before and during competitive events. Thematic analysis was employed in the qualitative part of the study, and quantitization of co-occurring codes was employed in the quantitative part of the study. Findings from the two data sets were integrated to provide a conclusive whole. Themes that emerged identified athletes’ concrete imagery to focus on strategy generation, error correction, technique, and preparation, and athletes’ abstract imagery to focus on desirability, symbolic and verbal representations, and psychological regulation. Statistical analyses revealed that experienced effectiveness of imagery significantly differed for task type (i.e., sport tasks performed in reactive environments versus in static environments) and competition times (i.e., day before competition, during competition).

The second and third studies were conducted based on findings from the first study. 30 participants (16 from table tennis and 14 from a track team, i.e., throwers and long jumpers) participated in the second study, a between-within experimental design, executing their tasks after a baseline condition and two construal level conditions which included verbal distance framings to induce low and high construal levels. 32 participants (16 from badminton and 16 from soccer teams) participated in the third study, also a between-within experimental design, executing soccer penalty shots and badminton rallies, with the verbal framing consisting of feasibility/desirability frames. Participants in the latter study also provided imagery recall information that was analyzed for content. Results from both studies supported the hypotheses that construal levels interact with task types to impact performance outcomes, such that table tennis and badminton players (performing their tasks in reactive environments) performed better in the low construal conditions than the high construal conditions, while throwers, jumpers and soccer penalty kickers (performing their tasks in static environments) performed better in the high construal conditions compared to the low construal conditions. Analysis of the imagery reports indicated that construal level frames impacted the content of athletes’ imagery (in terms of linguistic make-up as well as distance and detail provided); however, imagery did not act as a mediator as no evidence was found that it subsequently impacted performance outcomes.