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Reduction of musical performance anxiety by attentional training and behaviour rehearsal : an exploration of cognitive mediational processes Kendrick, Margaret Joan

Abstract

The present study evaluates attentional training and behaviour rehearsal in treating musical performance anxiety and in modifying self-talk and perceptions of self-efficacy. Pianists who experienced extreme anxiety in. performing situations were randomly assigned to the following conditions: (l) attentional training (n = 19), (2) behaviour rehearsal (n = 16), (3) waiting list control (n = 18). Three therapy sessions were conducted over a three-week period with subjects in the first two conditions meeting in small groups for one and one-half to two hours. Subjects in the attentional training program were taught to become aware of their negative thoughts before, during, and after their performances and to substitute these negative thoughts with positive task-relevant self-statements. Cognitive recall from videotaped performances and cognitive-modeling slide-tape sequences facilitated this process. Subjects in the behaviour rehearsal program were given a rationale for the effectiveness of repeated performance before a small supportive audience in reducing performance anxiety. Both treatments required performances during therapy sessions and in home assignments. A multivariate analysis of covariance revealed no difference among the three groups at post-treatment on self-report, behavioural, or physiological measures. At a five-week follow-up, however, attentional training and behaviour rehearsal were more effective than the waiting list control condition in reducing visual signs of anxiety and improving the quality of playing. Attentional training was superior to behaviour rehearsal in reducing visual signs of anxiety. Two scales were developed to measure the cognitive mediational variables of self-talk and self-efficacy. At follow-up, both treatments were superior to no treatment in increasing positive and decreasing negative thinking surrounding performances. Attentional training was superior to the other two conditions in enhancing expectations of personal efficacy. Behaviour rehearsal did not surpass the attentional training treatment on any of the six dependent measures, at follow-up. These findings were discussed in relation to previous research on attentional training and behaviour rehearsal, and to the cognitive mediational processes common to both therapies. Issues such as modeling effects, expectancy effects, follow-up, home assignments, subject attrition, and implications for the musical community were also discussed.

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