A study on performance anxiety in Special Olympic athletes is showing some surprising results. Ten psychology students at Black Hills State University in Spearfish traveled to South Korea for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in January to gather data for the study.
Current research suggests that individuals with intellectual disabilities experience the same amount of anxiety symptoms - sweaty palms and a churning stomach - before and during an athletic event as do athletes who do not have a disability.
Black Hills State Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Emilia Boeschen says this is no surprise. She has been studying performance anxiety in athletes for more than five years. However, she says her team is discovering one area where athletes in the Special Olympics trump other skilled athletes.
“And what we’re also finding, which is really fascinating and something that I know I can learn from, is that athletes with intellectual disabilities have higher levels of self-confidence than someone who doesn’t have an intellectual disability. And we’re comparing the data to a data set of Olympic athletes,” says Boeschen.
Boeschen says the research is groundbreaking. She adds that no other studies on this topic are in the works. The BHSU students are presenting the findings of their research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. Boeschen is also presenting the latest data to her colleagues at the American Psychological Association Conference this summer.