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Deception Studies Manipulating Centrally Acting Performance Modifiers: A Review


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 7 - p 1441–1451
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000235
Applied Sciences

ABSTRACT: Athletes anticipatorily set and continuously adjust pacing strategies before and during events to produce optimal performance. Self-regulation ensures maximal effort is exerted in correspondence with the end point of exercise, while preventing physiological changes that are detrimental and disruptive to homeostatic control. The integration of feedforward and feedback information, together with the proposed brain’s performance modifiers is said to be fundamental to this anticipatory and continuous regulation of exercise. The manipulation of central, regulatory internal and external stimuli has been a key focus within deception research, attempting to influence the self-regulation of exercise and induce improvements in performance. Methods of manipulating performance modifiers such as unknown task end point, deceived duration or intensity feedback, self-belief, or previous experience create a challenge within research, as although they contextualize theoretical propositions, there are few ecological and practical approaches which integrate theory with practice. In addition, the different methods and measures demonstrated in manipulation studies have produced inconsistent results. This review examines and critically evaluates the current methods of how specific centrally controlled performance modifiers have been manipulated, within previous deception studies. From the 31 studies reviewed, 10 reported positive effects on performance, encouraging future investigations to explore the mechanisms responsible for influencing pacing and consequently how deceptive approaches can further facilitate performance. The review acts to discuss the use of expectation manipulation not only to examine which methods of deception are successful in facilitating performance but also to understand further the key components used in the regulation of exercise and performance.

1Department of Sport and Physical Activity, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UNITED KINGDOM; and 2School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester Essex, UNITED KINGDOM

Address for correspondence: Lars Mc Naughton, Department of Sport and Physical Activity, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire L39 4QP, England, United Kingdom; E-mail:

Submitted for publication June 2013.

Accepted for publication November 2013.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine