The protective impact of a mental skills training session and motivational priming on participants’ psychophysiological responses to performance stress

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of this investigation was to examine whether a motivational priming session (i.e., educational lecture) and/or cognitive restructuring-based mental skills training session can elicit a protective physiological response to performance stress (i.e., an ego-involving climate). The stress hormones dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol were assessed. DHEA is a neurosteroid that counters many of the negative effects of cortisol (Morgan et al., 2004). As a secondary purpose, threat and challenge appraisals (Mendes, Gray, Mendoza-Denton, Major, & Epel, 2007), stress mindset (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013a), and affect (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) were examined. Male college students (N = 59, Mage = 20.25) were screened for potential confounds and randomly assigned to a control group (n = 16), a mental skills training group (n = 27), or an achievement goal perspective theory-based (AGPT; Nicholls, 1984, 1989) educational lecture group (n = 16). The experimental manipulation (i.e., lecture/session) took place during the 15 min prior to exposure to the performance stressor. The mental skills training session that aimed to foster a stress-is-enhancing mindset and a more task-oriented approach toward achievement yielded more adaptive responses to stress including a significant spike in DHEA-sulfate (i.e., DHEA-S), a challenge appraisal of the performance stressor, and a stress-is-enhancing mindset, compared to the control and AGPT groups. The AGPT lecture prevented a rise in salivary cortisol (i.e., a potentially threatening stress hormone) in response to the performance stressor. These findings suggest individuals can better protect themselves against psychosocial threats in performance settings, for which they have little control over, through education and training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101574
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Penn State Harrisburg Office of Research and Outreach . The author would like to thank Becky Conrad, Dustin Derstine, Jesse Donahue, Joel Greeley, Zebulon Hammond, Erica Jensen, Tina McGee, Samantha Miller, Quadira Owens, Kaitlin Paich, Caitlyn Pope, Christina Smith, Haley Vavrek, Ashley Williams, Cam Yon and Derrick Young for assisting with the instructional juggling sessions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019


  • Achievement goal perspective theory
  • Cortisol
  • DHEA
  • Goal orientations
  • Performance stress
  • Stress mindset


Dive into the research topics of 'The protective impact of a mental skills training session and motivational priming on participants’ psychophysiological responses to performance stress'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this