Theory of Attentional and Personal Style vs. Test of
Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS)
Robert M. Nideffer, Ph.D.
Numerous investigators have emphasized how important it is for both researchers and applied practitioners in the field of performance psychology to have a sound theoretical base that guides their work (Moran, 1996; Abernethy, 1993; Druckman & Swets, 1988). This is especially true in the cognitive area where Moran maintains that “research on concentration in athletes has been conducted largely in a theoretical vacuum (pg. 235).” The reason often given for the failure to of investigators to have a theoretical bases for their hypotheses is the belief that there is an absence of well developed theories to study cognitive skills like attention, concentration, and information processing in sport (Masters & Lambert, 1989; Boutcher, 1992). I would like to argue that there is a very well developed theoretical framework for examining the relationship between cognitive processes, emotional arousal, and performance. A theory that explains far more about those psychological factors that lead to “choking” on the one hand, and entering the “zone” or “flow” state on the other, than any other theory in psychology. A theory that leads to testable, performance relevant, predictions. That theory, is the Theory of Attentional and Interpersonal Style and was first introduced in 1976 (Nideffer, 1976a). If the theory is indeed better than other performance relevant theories, then why aren’t researchers and practitioners using it, and/or even aware of it? I believe there are three reasons. The first reason has to do with the fact that the theory has not been communicated as clearly as it should have been. Different parts or theoretical constructs have been presented in different articles. Second, the theory has been changing with constructs being clarified and new constructs added in response to on going research. The third reason, and perhaps the most important one is that both researchers and practitioners have failed to separate the theory of attentional and interpersonal style from the test of attentional and interpersonal style. This can be seen most clearing in the following quotes from Moran (1996).
“At first glance, the theory of attention developed by Nideffer (1976a; 1976b) appears to be one of the most comprehensive cognitive models in contemporary sport psychology. In particular, it seems to account for many attentional phenomena (e.g., individual differences in concentration skills) in an elegant, parsimonious and plausible manner.” Moran – Pg. 142
The above quote begins a section on measuring attentional processes in athletes, in Moran’s book on The Psychology of Concentration in Sport Performers. Moran moves from that introduction to a review of research that was designed to assess the validity of The Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (TAIS) and draws the following conclusion. Note that the conclusion talks about the validity of the theory, not the inventory.
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