What Is Performance Psychology?

White outline of a head on a black board with different colored chalk outlines for the brain lobes

The way people think affects what they do and how well—or how badly—they do it. One might argue that this is instinctive knowledge. For instance, you would not want your surgeon so nervous that he or she can barely hold a scalpel, would you? The idea that the mental can influence the physical is at the heart of performance psychology. And if this subspecialty fascinates you, you might consider making a career out of it by enrolling in the Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance Psychology degree program available from Grand Canyon University.

People Who Can Benefit from Performance Psychology

Performance psychology is most often defined by the groups of people who seek its help. The primary group is athletes. Sports psychologists apply the principles of performance psychology to help their clients achieve their peak abilities in training and during competitions. Mental resiliency is crucial in sports. If you watch baseball, then you already know how one player going on a hitting streak can help his teammates get the bats moving. Although athletes are perhaps the most noticeable clients of performance psychologists, they certainly aren’t the only people who can benefit. Actually, anyone who works under pressure can benefit from performance psychology. These can include:

  • Actors
  • Brain surgeons
  • CEOs and CFOs
  • Heads of state
  • Musicians
  • Artists
  • Dancers
  • Military servicemembers
  • Firefighters

Role of Mental Resiliency in Performance

A stage actor gets a scathing review and is suddenly struck with stage fright. An emergency medicine physician loses a patient and feels incapable of returning to the ER. A CEO makes a catastrophic decision and has to face angry shareholders. These are all examples of situations that require mental resiliency in order for the individual to overcome adversity and persevere. If you can imagine yourself in a similar situation in which you have lost confidence in yourself and your abilities, then you can easily see how your mindset influences your real-world actions.

Techniques Used in Performance Psychology

Mental resiliency is the ability to stay calm under pressure, and to remain focused, confident and in control. It is also the ability to cope with high demands, and to get back up after falling down. In short, what separates a world-class athlete from an underperforming one is the unshakable belief in one’s own abilities. These are not character traits that can be acquired overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and some intense inner reflection, as well as the mentorship of a performance psychologist. Some of the techniques a performance psychologist may use include the following:

  • Attention control training
  • Goal-setting
  • Imagery and visualization techniques
  • Conflict resolution
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Thought pattern awareness and modification
  • Use of self-talk or inner monologues

Performance psychology is a great science to become familiar with, and can be useful in many different career fields. If this sparks your interest, consider going after your PhD in the field.

Elevate your career prospects by enrolling in one of the many degree programs offered online and on-campus at Grand Canyon University. Our College of Doctoral Studies welcomes applicants to our Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance Psychology degree program. You can get started today by clicking on the Request More Information button.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.