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Tough Sport Psych Topics - Breaking Them Down

The top two sport psych topics I am asked to break down most frequently are reinforcement vs punishment, and the attentional styles. These are some of the many sections where the Essentials of Strength & Conditioning textbook could have done a better job of elaborating. Thankfully, you have this article to help fill these gaps!


When it comes to understanding these two topics, it is imperative to start by learning the definitions of each word. Let's get started:


Reinforcement and Punishment


Reinforcement: a behavior we want to reoccur, or happen again in the future. A good behavior.


Punishment: a behavior we do not want to reoccur, or happen again in the future. A bad behavior.


Positive: when something is added to the situation, whether it is good or bad


Negative: when something is removed from the situation, whether it is good or bad


Now it just comes down to combining these definitions to understand what each phrase implies:


  1. Positive Reinforcement: when something is added to the situation to increase the likelihood this behavior happens again

  2. Negative Reinforcement: when something is removed from the situation to increase the likelihood this behavior happens again

  3. Positive Punishment: when something is added to the situation to decrease the likelihood this behavior happens again

  4. Negative Punishment: when something is removed from the situation to decrease the likelihood this behavior happens again


Let's move onto the Attentional Styles...



Attentional Styles


Broad: attention placed on several things at once


Narrow: attention placed on one or two things


External: attention placed on something in your environment, outside of yourself


Internal: attention placed on something within yourself


Just like reinforcement vs punishment, we will combine these definitions to understand what each phrase implies:


  1. Broad External: attention placed on several things at once that are in your environment

  2. Narrow External: attention placed on one or two things that are in your environment

  3. Broad Internal: attention placed on several things at once that are within yourself

  4. Narrow Internal: attention placed on one or two things that are within yourself

  5. A basketball player mentally rehearsing and visually their free throw before the shoot


Hope this helps you understand reinforcement vs punishment, and the four different attentional styles! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below.


With Gumption,

Dan

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