Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

My personal website is, and check out my book "No Worries" on Amazon here

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ideomotor Responses - Hypnosis and Sport

This is a post aimed for other hypnotists; yet, it will also be interesting for anyone interested in improving physical performance.
Whilst reviewing my knowledge on ‘imagery and sport’ (I regularly review my knowledge, it keeps it fresh and updated) I have come across what physiology texts term the earliest scientific support of the use of imagery to create ideomotor responses.

Edmund Jacobson
American Journal of Physiology Published 1 January 1931 Vol. 96 no. 115-121

In this study he reports that the imagined movement of bending the arm created small muscular contractions in the flexor muscles of the arm. In other words, if you imagine a movement, the motor cortex responds, and you will start to get an initial movement – you start to get an ideomotor response.

Please note that we also know that the motor cortex will inhibit the final movement. In this way, when you imagine hitting someone, you don’t actually do so – you may twitch, but you won’t actually punch that person!

Hypnotists can ponder on this a little. If you want to create any physical phenomena, get your subject to imagine the movement, and the response will start. Then you can use the feedback loop this creates to manifest the physical phenomena fully. Remember everything happens nonconsciously first – you can use that – just guide their imagination how you see fit.

This makes it easy to create IMRs and any physical phenomena. For those of you who weren’t aware of this, I hope this helps expand your abilities. I work with the artful application of science. Here I have given the heads up on a tiny bit of the science, now you can wonder how to apply it artfully…

Imagination and Sport – Stay in the Positive

Through using your imagination you can improve:

  • ·         Strength
  • ·         Technical ability
  • ·         Focus and attention
  • ·         Faster recovery from injury
  • ·         Improvements in conditioning
  • ·         Emotional regulation

This is just for starters, and all are supported by a firm evidence base.
Understanding the imagination is of prime importance for anyone who wants to maximise performance. Get it right and you’ll get improvements. Get it wrong and your performance will suffer.

Interventions that use the imagination include mental rehearsal, imagery, visualisation, motor imagery – all of which have differences and appropriate uses. Use correctly, success is more likely. Yet used incorrectly, and performance will suffer.

Sportspersons seek me out for this reason – to help them use their imaginations in the right way. I know how to apply these skills, have a good grounding in the science behind them, and also offer my experiences of being a highly successful professional sportsman. I can often offer the nuances that make the big differences.

We use our imagination all the time. It guides us through our environment. Here’s where it can go wrong. If you imagine a poor performance, such as thinking “don’t mess up”, or seeing a move fail, then that is what you are moving towards. Not least because you aren’t paying attention to getting it right!

The classic study into this is by Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001), where they investigated suppressive imagery, “not to do something” in order to avoid a particular error. They found, clearly, that telling yourself not to image something that you don’t want to do will in fact make it more likely you’ll imagine it, and hinder your actual performance.

So keep your imagination in the positive. Imagine what you want to have happen, and more importantly what you need to do in order to achieve that want. Keep your self-talk on the same task. Your imagination is powerful; it guides your body through the environment. Let’s move it right. Keep it positive. Imagine getting it right.

I think I got this one wrong. Me eating a BIG knee from Bjorn Bregy, Stockholm, 2005

Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001)”Don’t miss!” The debilitating effects of suppressive imagery on golf putting performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23, 200-210