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Does Mental Imagery Improve the Performance of Free Throws in Basketball?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2363 words Published: 18th May 2020

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This study has been designed to investigate the effects of mental imagery on free throw

performance in basketball. The researcher used randomise group consistent of one treatment

group. One is a controlled group and the other being mental imagery.  A total of

20 participants were assigned randomly to each group. Participants received either (1) no

physical practice or (2) mental practice.  The research was conducted over a week period.

Participants involved with mental imagery, had a ten minutes practice session of mental

imagery daily using the Wilcoxon signed rank test, results did prove that participants

performing mental imagery was in fact statistically significant.


            Does mental imagery improve the performance of free throws in basketball

The advancement of technology in recent times has greatly improved human productivity.

 scientists all over the world believe humans have limitless capabilities that are yet to be

discovered. With this notion, researchers have dedicated their time in studying the human

body. The belief of limitless human capabilities has led psychologists to discover wide range

of possibilities, an example is the placebo effect (Jarrett, Christian; Warren,

Matthew,2019). This treatment is used mainly in clinical trials and tests.

     In the world of Sports, significant amounts of money have/has been invested into the

research of psychology in sports. The question of how sports men and women can improve

on their output has led to a wide range of theories. As research in these fields are yet to have

a conclusive finding on how to improve the performance of an athlete, many researchers and

psychologists have been able to find improvement in test subjects. The capabilities of the

human mind has been influential in modern research methods. Researchers believe the human

mind can be improved. Does the human mind really have an effect on an individual or a

sports person?

     Sports Psychologist have realised the importance of the human mind in sports, various

research in recent years have been used to address a number of theories associated with the

human mind and its relation to the output of sports men and women. Examples are

motor development, biomechanics and Kinesiology. 

      The major topic that has dominated the area of sports in recent years by far is mental

practice.  Mental practice can be defined as the motor skill training or rehearsal with the non-

usage of gross muscular movements as defined by (Richardson, 1967). There have been over

100 research based on mental practice in the past 50 years alone. (Feltz and Landers,

1983).  Majority of these research focuses on the benefits of mental practice on motor skills


    With the increasing number of researches in this field, one may assume mental practice

has/have been confirmed to have an effect on motor skills. Unfortunately results from these

studies have been rather inconclusive or inconsistent. Several number of research and studies

support the idea of mental practice does have positive effect on motor skills development

whiles a number of research studies disagree.

      The main purpose of this study was to identify if there was a significant difference

between the two treatment groups, and to confirm if mental imagery practise improves the

performance in free throws (Basketball).

    The current experiment took place in two contact session with (20) participants in two

random groups. The following hypothesis was formulated focusing on

reviews of literature and previous studies within the field of psychology. It would appear in

relation to the above hypothesis, performance in the mental imagery group will be greater

than the performance in the control group.




Twenty primary school Teachers (12 Females and 8 Males) with an average age of 38 in the

(age range of 18-50) took part in an experiment to identify, if mental imagery in free throw

(basketball) did improve their performance. Participants were in good physical condition and

had good command in English. The understanding of English is very vital, this is to enable

tall participants to read through the mental imagery script and to follow the directions

provided to complete the study.


In this study a between- subject design has been used. A between -subject design is an

experiment that has two or more groups of participants, each group containing different

subjects. Group one is the control group which has no treatment and group two the

treatment group which was mental imagery. The Independent Variable were free throws and

mental imagery. The Dependant Variable were the results achieved.


The equipment’s /tools/apparatus needed in this study is a basketball court and a basketball.

Copies of instructions on how to perform mental imagery were emailed and handed out to

the participants.


On the first day of the experiment participants were randomly assigned to their treatment

groups. The following day the mental imagery group received the instructions/script on how

to perform mental imagery.

The mental imagery group had about one week daily for 10minutes to perform the

visualization. The control group started the contact session on the basketball court shooting

15 free throws the session lasted about 15 minutes all results acquired during the session were

recorded. By the end of the week the mental imagery group went on to the basketball court to

perform the 15 free throws which again lasted about 15 minutes results acquired from this

group were record.


The main interest in this research was to find out if mental imagery did influence the

performance in basketball free throws. The experiment consisted of two groups, (IV) control

group (N = 10) and, (IV) mental imagery (N = 10) the (DV) is outcome of the results.          

A non-parametric Wilcoxon signed rank test has been used to test the null hypothesis of two

related group samples.

A Wilcoxon signed rank test shows that the median Mental Imagery Mdn = 9 were

statistically significantly higher than the median Control group Mdn = 4 as seen in figure.1

 Z – 3.815, p =.001, r = -0.85306. with a large effect size of (r = 0.85) according to

(Cohen,1988). A Bar chart has been created using the means of the Mental imagery and the

Control group.




This research on mental imagery reveals, mental imagery did perform greater than the

control group (Feltz and Landers,1983) as seen in figure.1. The control group did not have

any time to practice it can be suggested that Participants were not in the right mind of state or

had no previous experience in performing the free throws. Therefore, it would be suggested

to redo the free throw performance in Basketball to allow Participants to do a physical warm

up and practice. The results might differ from this research a suggestion would be to allow

Participants to do physical training for about 20 minutes per day for about a week or even up

to two weeks to see if there will be difference in performance. Participants for the

mental imagery group were given a script to practice visualization daily 10 minutes for about

a week. Some Participants disclosed they did more than 10 minutes of visualization as they

did enjoy the relaxation of it, after a hard day at work. Although the mental imagery group

did perform better it would be interesting to find out if a combination of Physical and mental

imagery where each participant gets the same length of time to do a physical and mental

imagery practice, previous studies suggest experienced Participants have benefit more from

mental imagery than an inexperienced Participant (Corbin, 1967; Egstrom, 1964; Feltz &

Landers, 1983; Noel, 1980; and Weinberg, 1982). There some factors that need to be

consider for future experiment is the motor ability and imagery ability (Clark,1960 which

were not measured in this study. The main purpose of this study was to find out if the 

hypothesis of the mental imagery group will perform greater therefore the we can

accept the hypothesis.


  • Cohen, J. (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences, 2nd ed, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
  • Corbin, c. (1972). Mental Practice, In Morgan, W. (Ed.), Ergogenic Aids and muscular performance (94-118). New York Academic press
  • Di Corrado D, Guarnera M, Vitali F, Quartiroli A, Coco M. 2019 Imagery ability of elite level athletes from individual vs. team and contact vs. no-contact sports
  • Egstrom, G.H. (1964). Effect of an emphasis on conceptualizing techniques during early learning of a gross motor skill. Research Quarterly 35, 472-481.
  • Feltz, D. & Landers, D. (1983). The effects of mental practice on motor skill learning and performance: A metanalysis. Journal of Sport Psychology, 5 No. 1, 25-57.
  • Jarrett, Christian; Warren, Matthew (March ,2019) The Placebo Effect British Psychology Society
  • Noel, R. (1980). The effects of visuo-motor behaviour rehearsal on tennis performance. Journal of Sport Psychology, 2, No. 3, 221-226.
  • Peterson, K.M. (1985). The effects of mental imaging and relaxation on the basketball shooting performance of female college players. Completed Research in Health, PhysicalEducation, Recreation and Dance. Abstract No. 38, p.34.
  • Peynircioglu, Zehra F., Thompson, Jennifer L. W., Tanielian, Terri B. Apr2000. Improvement Strategies in Free-Throw Shooting and Grip-Strength Tasks.
  • Richardson, A. (1967). Mental practice: A review and discussion Research Quarterly,
    • 38, 95- 107, 262-273.
  • Schuster et al. (2011) Best practice for motor imagery: a systematic literature review on motor imagery training elements in five different disciplines, BMC Medicine
  • Weinberg, R.S.  (1982) The relationship between mental preparation strategies and motor performance. A review and critique. Quest 33, 195-213


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