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Module JXH-3031:
Stress & Performance

Module Facts

Run by School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Stuart Beattie

Overall aims and purpose

Why do some athletes excel during intense pressurised situations one day but fall by the wayside the next? How can you train athletes and other individuals (e.g., military, emergency services, or business) to survive and thrive in high-pressure situations? This course will provide practical and evidence based answers to these questions. If you are looking for a career in any performance related domain then having an understanding of the material covered on this course is a must. Through real athlete case studies that the delivery staff have been involved with, you will be taught to recognise why performance has broken down under pressure and more importantly, what you as a practitioner can do about it

Course content

The course is delivered by an accredited sport and exercise psychologist and an expert in psychophysiology, both of whom work with elite level athletes, coaches, and the armed forces. You will be taught the most up-to-date theories and applied interventions in stress and performance literature.

Practical work in lectures will cover four main areas of stress and performance: Attentional Control e.g. why are we distracted by threat? Ironic Effects e.g. why do we drive the golf ball into the water when we tell ourselves not to? Reinvestment e.g. why do we attempt to consciously control movements under pressure? Challenge and Threat perceptions e.g. what do our psychophysiological responses to stress mean, and how can we optimally control them?

Assessment Criteria


D- to C+ Students should be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of the underlying theories and models covered in the course work. They then must demonstrate that they can apply these theories surrounding stress and performance that can explain performance drops. They will then be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of applied interventions based on sound theoretical research to alleviate such negative effects and justify their use.


B- to B+ Students should be able to present a very good discussion of the underlying theories and models covered in the course work. They will demonstrate that they can apply these theories surrounding stress and performance to explain performance drops. In addition, they will demonstrate a good knowledge of applied interventions based on sound theoretical research to alleviate such negative effects and justify their use.


A- and above Students should be able to present an outstanding in-depth and critical discussion of the underlying theories and models covered in the course work. They will be able to use their deep understanding to demonstrate how theories surrounding stress and performance can explain performance drops. In addition, they will clearly demonstrate applied interventions based on sound theoretical research to alleviate such negative effects and justify their use. They will refer to the athletes situation throughout.

Learning outcomes

  1. Critically analyse research evidence on stress and performance. Learn how to assess, apply and provide evidence for which theory or theories best fit the case study.

  2. Show understanding that different theoretical aspects of stress and performance are only relevant under certain situations. For example, the situation explained in the case study will dictate what theory best explains the performance slump.

  3. Interventions are only as good on the evidence they are based on. Therefore, you are required to construct theoretically driven intervention to help the athlete regain a good level of performance.

  4. Students will be able to make strong links to research as to why the athlete is having a performance slump. They will then be able to explain what theory or theories best explain the situation.

  5. With reference to the theoretical reasons that you provide for the performance slump, devise an intervention that will help the athlete regain a good level of performance under stressful situations.

  6. Bearing in mind what the underlying cause of the performance slump is, with reference to research, you will be better prepared to tailor appropriate interventions that best helps the athlete in this situation.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Applied intervention exam 40
Theoretical accounts of why the athlete has had a performance slump. 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Seven lectures will provide an overview of stress and performance research. A further two lectures will be devoted to formative practicals and class work, where the students will propose and justify what theory best explain the athletes situation. In order to help you prepare for your exam, one lecture will be devoted to the development of applied interventions. A final lecture will focus upon group work where the students with the aid of the lecturing staff will identify relevant research that will aid your intervention rational.

Private study

The student is expected to devote 78 hours to private study time. Opportunities for further support will be fully explained at the start of the module.


Transferable skills

  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • research and assess paradigms, theories, principles, concepts and factual information, and apply such skills in explaining and solving problems
  • critically assess and evaluate data and evidence in the context of research methodologies and data sources
  • plan, design, execute and communicate a sustained piece of independent intellectual work, which provides evidence of critical engagement with, and interpretation of, appropriate data
  • apply knowledge to the solution of familiar and unfamiliar problems
  • develop a sustained reasoned argument, perhaps challenging previously held assumptions
  • demonstrate effective written and/or oral communication and presentation skills
  • work effectively independently and with others
  • take and demonstrate responsibility for their own learning and continuing personal and professional development
  • self-appraise and reflect on practice
  • develop transferable skills of relevance to careers outside of sport, health and exercise sciences.
  • accurately interpret case study data
  • develop justifiable and/or evidence-based interventions


Talis Reading list

Reading list

This is a sample from your reading list but please refer to module outline for weekly readings and the Talis link for a full reading list.

Blascovich, J., Seery, M. D., Mugridge, C. A., Norris, R. K. & Weisbuch, M. (2004). Predicting athletic performance from cardiovascular indexes of challenge and threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 683-688.

Eysenck, M.W., Derakshan, N., Santos, R., & Calvo, M.G. (2007). Anxiety and cognitive performance: attentional control theory. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 7, 336–353.

Masters, R. S. W., & Maxwell, J. P. (2008). The theory of reinvestment. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1, 160-183.

Wegner, D.M., Ansfield, M.E., & Pilloff, D. (1998). The putt and the pendulum: Ironic effects of the mental control of action. Psychological Science, 9, 196–199.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: