Cognitive psychology in sport: Progress and prospects

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Problem:There has been a recent upsurge of research interest in cognitive sport psychology or the scientific study of mental processes (e.g., mental imagery) in athletes. Despite this interest, an important question has been neglected. Specifically, is research on cognitive processes in athletes influential outside sport psychology, in the “parent” field of cognitive psychology or in the newer discipline of cognitive neuroscience?Objectives:The purpose of this paper is to explore the theoretical significance of research on expertise, attention and mental imagery in athletes from the perspective of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience.Method:Following analysis of recent paradigm shifts in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, a narrative review is provided of key studies on expertise, attention and mental imagery in athletes.Results and conclusions:This paper shows that cognitive sport psychology has contributed significantly to theoretical understanding of certain mental processes studied in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It also shows that neuroscientific research on motor imagery can benefit from increased collaboration with cognitive sport psychology. Overall, I conclude that the domain of sport offers cognitive researchers a rich and dynamic natural laboratory in which to study how the mind works.

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