PAPELES DEL PSICÓLOGO Vol. 40-1 Enero - Abril 2019

the subject (regardless of imagery perspective) and contains useful information on spatial, temporal, strength and other meaningful characteristics for movement performance. There are 3 functions of motor imagery/motor representations. Programming function involves the formation of commands to be executed by movable body parts. Regulating function provides a picture of the ideal movement performance that a real movement is to be compared with. This comparison allows for a movement assessment to be conducted and required motor corrections to be dynamically computed and applied. Training function consists in possibility of using imagery as a technique facilitating motor skills acquisition. Indeed, motor imagery is considered one of the crucial tools for improving athletic performance. At the very beginning of the XX century, P.F. Lesgaft conceptualized imagery as a means for visual and logical representation of a motor task being learned. Also, Lesgaft considered imagery a useful practice allowing a learner to fully comprehend a planned motor action and foresee its results. As rehearsal activities in today’s elite sports often appear to be limited in time, there have been numerous attempts worldwide to optimize the effectiveness of such interventions by developing various methodological frameworks modifying practical approaches to mental imagery use. Here we propose that such frameworks may be classified according to the sequence they have to be applied in at the stage of development and implementation of intervention program based on mental imagery. This idea is illustrated further by considering that stage as a three-step process including determination of required functional type of imagery (1), environment and individual psychophysiological state (2) and, finally, specific content and features of images (3). The three-step approach is supposed to be a universal algorithm for imagery interventions development in sports, however in the current paper it will be described only as an example for motor imagery use. The first necessary step is to select a functional type of imagery in accordance with the goals that are pursued as a desired result of a mental training procedure. According to Paivio (1985), imagery training may focus on self-regulation, motivation enhancement, performance strategies planning and motor skills development. As pointed out by Kaminskiy and Veraksa (2016), practitioners should clearly distinguish when the goal of engaging in mental practice consists in improving the motor skills. In this case a certain type of imagery should be used, which is specifically focused on movement as a subject of imagination and known as motor imagery. In this regard, Olsson (2011) emphasized that during motor imagery, as opposed to exclusively visual representation of movements, corresponding motor programs should be activated. The implication being, that previous actual performance experience of a particular motor skill rehearsed is an essential condition to utilize motor imagery. However, it should be clarified that this is not a spur to recommend engaging in mental practice only to experienced athletes. On the contrary, mental rehearsal may be equally beneficial for both novice and skilled performers but in each case it would involve different psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms to influence the overt behavior. To better distinguish between motor and other functional types of imagery (e.g., motivational or performance strategies) it would be helpful for practitioners to be aware of one important point. It seems reasonable that, when engaging in mental practice for improving motor performance, attention should be concentrated on motor actions and related environmental cues and by no means is desirable to be diffused across the imagined scene. Hence, we speculate, that motor imagery appropriately works when it is interpreted only as a mental reconstruction of actions. Other types of imagery (that can be mixed with motor imagery but have no direct effect on motor skills performance) may be described as a mental reconstruction either of actions or of events (Kaminskiy, Veraksa, 2016). After establishing the correspondence between a goal of an intervention and a certain type of imagery, one has to determine the most beneficial conditions for mental practice in terms of the environment and the state of an individual engaged (see Cumming, Williams, 2013; Mizuguchi et al., 2011; Munroe et al., 2000). Although this issue was acknowledged long ago, it is currently considered debatable. The traditional approach involved relaxation as an introductory step to prepare an individual for mental rehearsal. One of working assumptions that could be elaborated to provide a rationale for such a practice is a parallel with hypnosis where relaxation is believed to produce more vivid mental experience. Similarly, it is well- known that the more vivid imagery is, the more effective mental rehearsal will be. Still, a PETTLEP imagery model proposed by Holmes and Collins (2001) is regarded to be the most influential. They argued that the most favorable conditions for mental practice are the closest to the real ones for corresponding sports activity. Thus, it is believed that athletes should reach some degree of physical and emotional arousal and consequently they are advised to imagine while being in contact with a specific item related to an action imagined (e.g., a ball, a dart, ski poles, etc) (Mizuguchi et al., 2011). Finally, specific content and features of mental image should be considered. This approach involves identification of mental image variables, which may be consciously changed by an individual thereby producing one or another kind or degree of effect on performance. Overall, these variables include image timing, modality and perspective. In Russia, this area was specifically examined in a study by Kaminskiy et al. (2017) who particularly addressed a problem of imagery perspective use at various skill levels. The study involved 54 cross-country skiers (N=54; 40 males, 14 females, Mean age - from 11 to 31 years) with skiing experience from 1 to 24 years. To determine athletes’ technical skills level dual-task methodology followed by video analysis and expert technique assessment was implemented. By using cluster analysis, the participants (n = 46) were divided into 4 groups according to modern trends of sPort PsycholoGy 70 A r t i c l e s