Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Kevin S. Masters


Kevin S. Masters


David Stein


Richard Gordin


Brian Bailey


Emily Burton


Emilie Daly


The cognitive strategies of association and dissociation have been identified and studied in runners and other athletes. Association is said to involve thoughts that are task-oriented and may include a focus on pace, strategy, or physiological sensations. Conversely, dissociation involves task-irrelevant thoughts and may include thinking about such things as relationships, work, spiritual matters, or scenery. To date, studies have been largely descriptive, methodologically flawed, failed to use manipulation checks, and/or present unclear or differing conclusions. The emphasis with previous association and dissociation research has also been with elite and/or endurance athletes, such as marathon runners. Additionally, only a few studies have included more than one exercise setting, and these investigations seemed to indirectly suggest that the exercise environment may influence the use of cognitive strategies, performance, and perceived exertion.

In an effort to clarify the effects of cognitive strategies and exercise setting on several dependent variables, the current study investigated a sample of experienced recreational runners in a 3 x 2 mixed experimental design. Exercise setting had three levels (treadmill, indoor track, and outdoor route) and was a within-groups independent variable and cognitive strategy had two levels (association vs. dissociation) as a between-groups factor. The dependent variables were the ratings of perceived exertion, course satisfaction, and performance time for a 5 km run. The results indicated strong effects for the influence of exercise setting. The treadmill setting was rated as least satisfying, while resulting in the highest perceived exertion and slowest performance time. Alternately, the outdoor route resulted in the highest level of course satisfaction, while also yielding the lowest level of perceived exertion. For the dissociation strategy, the outdoor setting garnered the lowest perceived exertion, followed by the indoor track and treadmill, respectively, while with the associative strategy perceived exertion did not significantly differ among the settings. There were no overall differences in perceived exertion or course satisfaction between the cognitive strategies; however, there was a medium effect size and trend for the association group to run faster. The implications and limitations of these data are discussed and suggestions for future research are provided.



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