Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Arousal - too much or too little

As discussed in previous posts, our arousal (excitement) level has a direct impact on our performance. Performance does increase as arousal increases up to a certain point, then it begins to decrease somewhat dramatically.
If arousal levels are too low, motivation and desire may not be optimal to support a quality performance effort. On the other hand, higher than optimal arousal levels for a particular skill may cause us to become too anxious and begin to worry too much about the results rather than focus on the required task. As anxiety increase, mental flexibility becomes hindered.
Successful execution of a complex task also demands unconscious and automatic thoughts about action.

The level of arousal required depending on
• Our own personality
• The task performed.

For example, in baseball, a batter requires lower levels of arousal to perform the skills necessary to execute on hitting the pitch. They should have very low anxiety levels when they step into the batter’s box.
On the other hand, a basketball player on offense will need a higher level of arousal, as the situation requires them to be more active, yet they still must be able to run the desired offense effectively.
What about bridge
In the same fashion in bridge,I expect that the play of a hand would require a fairly a low level of arousal. Now is not the time to develop high level of aggressivity
On the other hand, today’s competitive bidding means that a higher degree of arousal will be required as the competition to ‘win’ the bidding war will be high. In defense, the mix will be more subtle and the player with incorrect level of arousal may not find the right mix of defense. You would expect a player with level of arousal too high will find too many aggressive defense while a player with a level of arousal which is too low will too many passive defenses.

In this aspect as in everything, one step at a time, practice makes perfect.


  1. Your advice helps us solve our own arousal problems, but ......

    How about our bridge partner and/or teammates? If their arousal is too high, will they be offended if we try to rein them down by trying to get them to focus on the basics of playing bridge rather than desiring victory too much?

    And if a team member's arousal is too low, will they think it is like "nagging" if a fellow team member tries to get them to focus more on the task at hand? Will they be offended if you try to do anything which suggests that their arousal level is not high enough?

    There is a fine line here, and it's hard to know what to do - interference to try to rectify their arousal levels can backfire, if not handled delicately.

    Summarising, should one try merely to get one's own arousal level at the right level, or should one also, while the bridge event is in progress, try to get one's teammates' arousal levels at the right level?

  2. The time we are competing is not the time to try to change one's or other's behavior and expectation. The only thing on our mind should be the game itself. For maximum performance, we need to be fully engaged in the activity. So to be distracting ourself or others by thinking about performancece itself can only be detrimental. I would say that the only way to exert any influence during an event is : lead by example.
    If this is an area of peformance that needs to be improved, I would say, raise the topic month before the event with team mates or partners. You yourself have achieved a great deal in this respect, and your achievements and position in the australian brige scene are a good example of what we can achieve if we focus on the performance aspect of the job.
    If anyone was in a position to offer any help during a tournament, it would be the team captain or coach. But this is not easily done without pre-work.