To what extent can classical conditioning and motor control systems serve as explanations to target panic?

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About this paper

The Extended Essay is a required component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for high school students. This essay was submitted by Marius Lindvall for evaluation for the May 2017 examination session. The grade awarded to this paper was D, initially scoring 9 marks, and receiving an additional 5 marks after remarking.


Target panic is a psychological problem within archery that causes archers to experience a frustrating and seemingly inexplicable inability to hit the center of the target they are aiming at, due to involuntary movements and what is perceived by many as a loss of control over their technique. Many archers affected by target panic express frustration regarding their performance, and many have tried coming up with both causes and possible solutions to the problem.

However, the exact cause of the problem is not clear. Psychological research has led to two theories – classical conditioning and motor control systems – that could seemingly be related to the problem. To what extent can classical conditioning and motor control systems serve as explanations to target panic? Through investigating these two theories and their application to target panic symptoms, this essay attempts to answer this question. The essay draws on findings from a range of studies in sports psychology, but primarily bases its research on the works of two authors – Kidwell and Turner. There is very little published material that directly relates to target panic, and while attempts have been made to diversify the references and citations in the text, some passages contain large amounts of information sourced only from a single author.

Both of the presented theories provide a scientifically valid explanation to target panic. Each of the theories are able to thoroughly describe the underlying causes of target panic, and produce concrete drills and exercises shown to have high rates of treatment efficiency. However, due to the lack of published research, and the large prevalence of target panic among archers, more research should be conducted to determine additional factors and to increase understanding and awareness of the problem. Research should also be conducted to find possible links to similar phenomena in other sports.

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