The impact of a visual imagery intervention on Army ROTC cadets’ marksmanship performance and flow experiences

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Virginia Tech


This investigation used an experimental design to examine how a visual imagery intervention and two levels of challenge would affect the flow experiences and performance of cadets engaged in Army ROTC marksmanship training. I employed MANCOVA analyses, with gender and prior marksmanship training experience as covariates, to assess cadets' (n = 127) marksmanship performance and flow experiences. Findings revealed that the use of visual imagery did not positively enhance flow and improve performance with statistical certainty. The results, however, might be practically significant because they showed that when cadets were faced with a more challenging situation and had engaged in visual imagery exercises, they were more likely to outperform cadets in the same challenge condition who had not engaged in visual imagery exercises. On average, cadets in the high challenge condition who engaged in visual imagery exercises outperformed non-visual imagery cadets in the same condition by over one point on a six-point scale. Additional findings revealed that level of challenge did not affect flow experiences, which is counter to the postulates of flow theory. Level of challenge did, however, negatively impact performance. That is, when cadets were faced with a more challenging situation, they performed more poorly. Prior experience — and by extension skill level — was discovered to better facilitate flow experiences, as opposed to a balance of challenge and skills. Higher levels of prior marksmanship training experience were associated with cadets' potential to enter the flow state. Additionally, males rated flow significantly higher than their female counterparts. Males also significantly outperformed females. Implications for future research investigating how challenge and visual imagery affect flow experiences and performance in the context of Army ROTC marksmanship training are discussed.



Flow, Visual imagery, Marksmanship Training, Army