The fallacy of directional anxiety

Remco Polman and Erika Borkoles

Victoria University, ISEAL and School of Sport and Exercise Science, Melbourne, Australia


Polman, R., Borkoles, E. (2011). The fallacy of directional anxiety. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 42(3), 303-306.


Since the work by Jones and colleagues in the early 1990s the idea that feelings of anxiety could be interpreted as either facilitative or debilitative to athletic performance has been widely discussed in the sport psychology literature (e.g., Jones, 1995). Although this view has been promoted by a number of researchers (e.g., Hanton, Neil, & Mellalieu, 2008), we argue that this framework is based on flawed empirical research, and not supported by evidence frommainstreampsychology literature (e.g., Fox, 2008; Lewis,Haviland-Jones & Feldman Barrett, 2008). As stated by Burton (1998), anxiety by definition is a negatively toned and unpleasant emotion that cannot be facilitative.