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UK Coaching Team
Talent and Performance Developing Mindsets Organising and Planning

Understanding Motor Imagery and its Role in Coaching

In the fourth of a series of eight resources, Performance Psychology Consultant Philippa McGregor explores the concept of motor imagery, emphasising that it is a skill that can be learned and developed through the ‘four Ws’

One of the most remarkable capacities of the mind is its ability to simulate sensations, actions, and other types of experience (Moran, Guillot, MacIntyre, & Collet, 2012). 

A mental simulation process that has attracted the attention of sport psychologists is motor imagery or the mental rehearsal of actions without engaging in the actual physical movements involved. 

Mental imagery refers to how we can represent perceptual information in our minds in the absence of appropriate sensory input (Muir, Chandler, & Loughead, 2018), seeing with the mind’s eye.

Alongside many other psychological concepts, imagery has been victim of multiple terminologies and definitions, making understanding it unnecessarily difficult. 

Alongside terms like mental imagery, motor imagery is another process referenced in the literature and will be the terminology reference throughout this resource.

Defining ‘motor imagery’

Motor imagery has been defined as a dynamic mental state during which the representation of an action or movement is rehearsed in working memory without engaging in the actual physical movements (Collet & Guillot, 2010). That is, the brain areas responsible for physical performance appear to also be responsible for imagery production (Jeannerod, 1997). 

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