/ How mentally strong a climber are you? - SURVEY/DISCUSSION

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jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
Dear UKClimbers,

What gives a climber a mental edge?

What does that edge mean they can achieve?


Academic research is being conducted into successful mindsets in climbing, and we are offering an online survey that will provide you with your own personal mental edge profile:

http://edu.surveygizmo.com/s3/1202441/The-Mental-Edge-in-Free-Climbing

The lead researcher is John Hall, a psychologist studying Sport and Exercise Psychology at Staffordshire University, and a climber, mountaineer, and mountain ultra-runner. The project is looking at the impact of mental toughness and mental skills such as imagery, goal-setting, self-talk, and relaxation on performance in various sports, such as climbing and ultra-endurance events. The research is fully supported by Staffordshire University, is approved by the University Ethics Committee, and this request is posted with the express permission of UKClimbing.

It should take you no more than 15 minutes to complete the 80 multiple-choice questions necessary to generate your personal report. All information submitted will be treated in strict confidence and personal details made fully anonymous in any publications.

Once all the data has been analysed you can also receive an overall summary explaining what was learnt about successful mental approaches to climbing.

Does this sound interesting? If so, please click the link above to the survey and complete it as soon as possible. This is unique research, in a cutting-edge area of interest. It should benefit you, the UKClimbing and wider climbing community, and help push the boundaries of sport research overall!

Many thanks, and please post any comments on the survey or the topic in reply to this thread.

John


Researcher contact details:

John Hall: hw034556@student.staffs.ac.uk
MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology, Faculty of Health Sciences
Staffordshire University, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DF, UK.
dunc56 - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: I started to do this and got bored half way through - too many of the same questions. You have also made an assumption that people use mental imagary in climbing. Some people don't.

Why not have an early quesiton asking if you just climb and couldn't care less about performance, mental imagery and become amazing ?
dunc56 - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: And some of the questions are ambiguous.
For example,
I am confident in most aspects of my performance.

Sex, climbing, driving ? And before you say all the questions are about climbing - I don't think they are.
metal arms on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to dunc56:
> (In reply to jwlhall) I started to do this and got bored half way through - too many of the same questions. You have also made an assumption that people use mental imagary in climbing. Some people don't.
>
> Why not have an early quesiton asking if you just climb and couldn't care less about performance, mental imagery and become amazing ?

He did say in the OP 'The project is looking at the impact of mental toughness and mental skills such as imagery, goal-setting, self-talk, and relaxation on performance in various sports, such as climbing and ultra-endurance events.'

But some people love a whinge.
Skip - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Thought it was a good survey.
dunc56 - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to metal arms:
> (In reply to dunc56)
> [...]
>
> He did say in the OP 'The project is looking at the impact of mental toughness and mental skills such as imagery, goal-setting, self-talk, and relaxation on performance in various sports, such as climbing and ultra-endurance events.'
>
> But some people love a whinge.

Also, if you are leading trad or sport, it makes a massive difference ......
martinph78 on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Skip: Me too, the results at the end were good to look at.

For info, the survey is't as long as it seems. 67% was the end of the questions, the rest was info/results.
Skip - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
The survey results (my scores) have sadly confirmed my current (i hope it's only temp) lack of mental toughness when leading. I was improving, getting up to leading the occasional HS/VS pitch. However, since i took a relatively big lead fall around a month ago i've completely lost my bottle on lead.
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
Hey, thanks for the feedback and a lot of completed surveys already!

Yes, not all the questions are about climbing, some are about life in general but it will say at the top of each page what the focus is if you find it unclear anywhere. However, we find that some of these life approaches affect climbing and are relevant for performance in all sports.

Also, there will be some questions that seem reparative as they are slight variations of a previous question. This can feel annoying when completing the survey, but rest assured they are all important in making the final judgements. We use statistical techniques to remove any unnecessary questions so to have the bare minimum we can to measure what we are after.

In general, the best approach to all these types of surveys is to answer the questions quickly with your initial reaction, even if it does not seem directly relevant. That tends to produce trustworthy results.
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
Agreed, trad is really interesting to us for that reason, but if we get a lot of responses on sport climbing, we can also detect smaller effects that are significant given the statistical power large numbers deliver.
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to dunc56: Yes, we tried to put the minimum necessary number of questions in, and as Martin says below, 67% on the progress bar is the end of the questions and the start of your results feedback. Persistence is much appreciated!
abseil on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
>...Academic research is being conducted... we are offering an online survey... The lead researcher is John Hall...

Dear John, could you please first tell me:

*"Academic research is being conducted" - by who, exactly? By how many people, and who are they?

*"we are offering an online survey" - who is 'we', exactly?

*"The lead researcher is John Hall" - who are you leading, exactly?

Thank you very much for your replies.
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to abseil:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
> >...Academic research is being conducted... we are offering an online survey... The lead researcher is John Hall...
>
> Dear John, could you please first tell me:
>
> *"Academic research is being conducted" - by who, exactly? By how many people, and who are they?
>
> *"we are offering an online survey" - who is 'we', exactly?
>
> *"The lead researcher is John Hall" - who are you leading, exactly?
>
> Thank you very much for your replies.

Hi, most of this is covered on the first page of the survey (informed consent) but to be clear this research is from Staffordshire University, by myself and Dr Charlotte Woodcock (who is the overall project supervisor), and the person doing most of the work is myself (hence lead researcher). This is an entirely academic exercise, there is no commercial interest here! Please PM me if you require any further credentials.
dunc56 - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: How about a question up front saying do you use imagery - if the user answers no then they don;t have to answer loads of questions ?
zebidee - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Jesus - got to question 50 and the marker hadn't got past 50% so bailed out at that point.

Agree with the previous points about imagery yadda yadda yadda ... do you use it?

No - okay end of.
abseil on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
> (In reply to abseil)
>...Hi, most of this is covered on the first page of the survey...

Thanks a lot for your reply.

I've completed the survey. Good luck with your research. (And I enjoyed the 'results' bit at the end, very helpful).
RBonney on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: The first set of multiple choice questions were terrible, and didn't relate to anything (let alone climbing), and I got bored of the better ones on the second page.
Nick Russell on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Just like to add to this discussion that I thought it was a good survey. The repetition is normal and in fact *necessary* for this kind of research. I'm sure John will be able and willing to explain why if you really want.
Adam Long - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Another survey that seemed to be at odds with 'real' climbing. Fear is a healthy thing in climbing with real dangers - mountaineering, chossy sea cliffs etc. The survey suggested to me it was more about a bit of sewing-machine leg whilst top-roping. In that light I suspect my answers might have been very different if a researcher had been on hand to clarify what they were actually trying to get at. For example, can I get myself into the right frame of mind to perform well? (paraphrased) Yes, I can, consistently. Is it 'easy' as the question was phrased? I don't think so, no, as it will be affected by recent performances. If I climb crap on a warm-up I take heed. I don't really train either, so I disagreed with most training/ practice questions...
Nick Russell on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Adam Long:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
>
> I don't really train either, so I disagreed with most training/ practice questions...

And these responses will be valid and useful in the survey. The people running the study don't 'expect' or 'want' particular answers, just whatever applies best to you.
Nick Russell on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Adam Long:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
>
> Fear is a healthy thing in climbing with real dangers - mountaineering, chossy sea cliffs etc.

Again, if this is the kind of climbing that you mostly participate in then presumably your responses will reflect the appropriate attitude to fear, which is useful to the study

(ps. sorry I seem to have picked on your response to reply to. These kind of points are common in response to these surveys, and your post provided some convenient quotes)

jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to dunc56: Hi that is a good suggestion, and there are some questions that are hidden depending on earlier responses as you suggest, and some that unfortunately we can't as we need responses to them to be able to compare between individuals and sports. Apologies if imagery is not high on the list for many, but there are only 4 questions on that!
Simon Caldwell - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Adam Long:
> I don't really train either, so I disagreed with most training/ practice questions...

I don't train either, so I put "neither agree nor disagree"...
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Adam Long: Yes, we are using questions about things like fear that we hope can help us compare across sports. Fear will mean something different to a rower, a golfer, or a climber. In this survey we have an open mind on this aspect - if mental toughness is such a pervasive measure, can we see evidence it is robust across different sport settings?

There is lots of more detailed research on fear in sport and climbing certainly deserves treatment in depth in its own right. Interpreting fear as a challenge or a problem is quite a differentiator of approaches, in all settings I think.
TM_Horton - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: good survey in my opinion :)
freerangecat - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

I love the optimism of the first sentence of the introduction. I haven't started yet - I guess I do 'intend' to complete it, but can't make any promises at the moment :-)
Jon Stewart - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

I thought it was an interesting survey and it's made much more rewarding for respondents by getting the analysis at the end.

One thing occurred to me, which is a very generic problem with this kind of research: it all depends on my own feelings about feelings. I come out with very low scores on most of the metrics, whereas someone who likes much easier, safer climbs might say: "but Jon, you really love scary E3s on committing sea cliffs with not much gear and dubious rock, and you usually seem pretty calm when things are hard and dangerous". But my own perception of my confidence is very low, perhaps at odds with my behaviour which might outwardly be pretty confident. On the other hand, someone who climbs much harder might view my performance as really slow, unconfident and shaky. There are a range of perceptions of my confidence, none of which are at all objective.

In fact, because I'm quite a moody person, one day I might look back over recent(?!) climbs and think I did them well, with solid focus and confidence but another day I might look back and remember them as being one solid jibber from bottom to top. And are the times when I'm confident and climbing really well just easy routes that are over-graded...or just freak occurrences when other things in my life happen to be going well?

These shifting psychological concepts are incredibly slippery things to try to get hold of and measure - but it's interesting stuff and I wish you luck with this research. I think it would be much easier to do just with sport climbing which is much more easily defined by concepts like 'performance' 'practice' and 'mental imagery' - these things are rather vague in onsight trad climbing.

freerangecat - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to freerangecat:

Completed it now - interesting and well written.
joshen - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
in general i thought it's a good survey, think the results at the end were a pretty accurate reflection of me.

the only thing i would say is that there were a fair few questions that i could've answered differently depending on how i interpreted them. for example when it talks about pressure, is that the pressure of being on a route that's been on the list for years, the pressure of all your mates having just done it, the pressure of trying to impress someone, or the pressure of being half way up a sea cliff where the only options are to climb or 'swim'.

one thing that i didn't see in my results, was that i am usually less scared when I'm safe but high, than when I'm actually in danger. on a toprope/second my fear of heights kicks in and i'm terrified with more than 15m or air under my arse. on a run out lead or solo it's like a next level of survival instinct kicks in and i'm zen like. (guess i wouldn't expect the results to say all that, but thought they may have touched on it, or you may be interested)
mbambi - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
Thanks for that, took some mental toughness to do the survey (!) but I really thought the feedback section was very revealing about my attitudes, and not just towards climbing.
Food for thought and self reflection.
Bambi
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Adam Long - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

> There is lots of more detailed research on fear in sport and climbing certainly deserves treatment in depth in its own right. Interpreting fear as a challenge or a problem is quite a differentiator of approaches, in all settings I think.

I think this is the nub of my problem with your questions. In much of the climbing I do fear is neither a 'problem' nor a 'challenge'. It is an emotion which whose usefulness depends on the situation. Sometimes it can be ignored and sometimes it should be listened to very carefully indeed. I don't think your questions allow for this subtlety.
jenniwat001 on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

best climbing survey I have completed- I especially lie the question asking if I felt I had special attributes other climbers did not- I strongly agree- the ability to consider every possible scenario in which I die and cripple my belayer and let that terrify me so I can't get more than 10ft off the ground is pretty special, though probably not the special they were talking about!
TM_Horton - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: what he said ;)
Climbster - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: Interesting survey, found some of the options quite ambiguous, but provided a "gut reaction" anyway. Given the number of similar comments from other climbers, I would query the reliability of any results. Did you considered triangulating with some qualitative data?
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Adam Long: Yes, I agree a survey will not reveal this sort of subtlety. If I were to start researching fear in climbing it would begin with in-depth interviews and analysis of a few individuals' experiences. This is how the mental toughness field started a decade back with detailed interviews of elite athletes, coaches and psychologists. Then we try and find methods that work at a general level like surveys.
jwlhall - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Climbster:
> (In reply to jwlhall) Interesting survey, found some of the options quite ambiguous, but provided a "gut reaction" anyway. Given the number of similar comments from other climbers, I would query the reliability of any results. Did you considered triangulating with some qualitative data?

Yes, I did consider this, but one of the problems with the mental toughness field is that there is too much qualitative research (which is unusual) and too little quantitative. So the accounts of elite and super-elite athletes dominate, and this has created a lucrative consulting industry, but surprisingly no-one has really answered questions like 'does mental toughness actually result in better performance outcomes?'. If I get to continue with this line of work, I will definitely follow up with qualitative investigations, to understand the subtleties of what the statistics reveal. There are important questions to answer like 'what does it feel to perform in an atmosphere where mental toughness is an ideal' as there is evidence that injury risk is higher and rehabilitation poorer.
another_alex - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Good survey, I'll be really interested to see the results.

But it assumes you use mental imagery for performance - ie visualise yourself climbing well, then climb really hard grades. And that your climbing-related goals are all about improving grades and hard climbing.

I use mental imagery more for enjoyment - ie visualise myself having a good time climbing then go out and enjoy myself. And my climbing-related goals are mostly to do with enjoying myself, switching off for a while and learning stuff I can apply elsewhere (like how to handle fear in everyday life).
Bruce Hooker - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

I did it but a lot of the questions didn't seem applicable to anyone who isn't a sporty sort of person with a need to "perform"... as someone else says most climbers don't train, I'd add it's just seems they do as the competitive ones are more vocal :-)

So all pretty daft, although the interface worked very well, except when it forced me to answer questions that I couldn't answer truthfully, hence several answers were just random clicks... Perhaps you will say, oh no they weren't, nothing is random!
I like climbing - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
I hate top roping and avoid it. I have no idea what I could do on top rope. As it requires an answer the survey came to a halt.
I like climbing - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to dunc56:
> (In reply to metal arms)
> [...]
>
> Also, if you are leading trad or sport, it makes a massive difference ......

Very good point
Deviant - on 03 Apr 2013
In reply to Bruce Hooker & everyone else !

I got half way through and thought it wasn't sufficiently relevant to me and binned it. Sorry about that, but I think you're on the wrong wave-length.

As Bruce also said, I ended-up giving a random click as an answer and this is a complete waste of time.
Jon Stewart - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to Deviant:
> In reply to Bruce Hooker & everyone else !
>
> I got half way through and thought it wasn't sufficiently relevant to me and binned it. Sorry about that, but I think you're on the wrong wave-length.

Have you considered that it may not be on your wavelength, but that doesn't mean that the wavelength it's on is wrong?

What I'd say, largely in agreement, is that the survey is only relevant to a subset of climbers, specifically people with a 'sporty' approach who are pretty serious about pushing themselves to climb as hard as possible, and who train physically and use mental training to achieve the hardest climbs they can do. This certainly doesn't apply to everyone on UKC - but in the analysis it should be reasonably easy to group respondents into those who were on this wavelength, and those who weren't. I would not consider that either group, nor the tone of the survey, was 'wrong'.
jwlhall - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to Jon Stewart: This is something we can test and split the responses into groups of different climbing level and dedication and see if there really is a difference in the mental approach!
jwlhall - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to I like climbing: The question was about seconding or top-roping, which for most people would mean seconding, but we were just trying to make what we were asking as comprehensible as possible to as many as possible - some may only ever climb single pitches! Important thing is the rope above vs the rope below.
jwlhall - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to another_alex:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
>
> Good survey, I'll be really interested to see the results.
>
> But it assumes you use mental imagery for performance - ie visualise yourself climbing well, then climb really hard grades. And that your climbing-related goals are all about improving grades and hard climbing.
>
> I use mental imagery more for enjoyment - ie visualise myself having a good time climbing then go out and enjoy myself. And my climbing-related goals are mostly to do with enjoying myself, switching off for a while and learning stuff I can apply elsewhere (like how to handle fear in everyday life).

That's very interesting feedback on the use of imagery. I don't doubt it helps in both situations - pushing the envelope, or setting yourself up to enjoy a climb. We will have to see if we can spot evidence of both in the data. Thanks.
jwlhall - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to Deviant:
> In reply to Bruce Hooker & everyone else !
>
> I got half way through and thought it wasn't sufficiently relevant to me and binned it. Sorry about that, but I think you're on the wrong wave-length.
>
> As Bruce also said, I ended-up giving a random click as an answer and this is a complete waste of time.

Thanks for giving it a try though! We try and make it as palatable as possible so people stay motivated to work through and get their feedback, but not everyone will have the patience either. At this stage more than half have been all the way though, thanks to all who made it too! Please note as several mentioned above 67% on the progress bar is the end of the questions and the start of your personal report.
jkarran - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Confirmed what I aready knew, I'm feeble minded and have other hobbies.

OP: The initial question about consistent grades on lead and top-rope doesn't make a right lot of sense to me. There's no such thing for me in sport, only what I can get up eventually which is the same wherever the rope is. Since I do both I followed the rules and opted for British grades but here the issue is similar, what does consistent actually mean? I took it to be the level at which I rarely fail and again that's the same on lead or TR, it's also a lot lower than what I'm willing to try.

As for the rest of the survey I thought it was good but it does seem rather focused on those that climb seriously rather than pottering for fun.

jk
abarro81 - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
As mentioned above, as someone who's mainly a sport climber I don't really ever second or TR stuff so I just put the same grade down for both as a guess. (Though that doesn't mean I don't perform better with a bolt at my waist than with a bolt a long way below me.)
jwlhall - on 04 Apr 2013
In reply to abarro81:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
> As mentioned above, as someone who's mainly a sport climber I don't really ever second or TR stuff so I just put the same grade down for both as a guess. (Though that doesn't mean I don't perform better with a bolt at my waist than with a bolt a long way below me.)

Yes I see what you mean, there will be a difference if not multi-pitch sport routes like around Chamonix!
Misha - on 05 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:
Interesting
Fat Tim - on 05 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: Interesting. As has been said above it would be interesting to split the questions into sport and trad (for me anyway!)
Tim
jwlhall - on 06 Apr 2013
In reply to Fat Tim:
> (In reply to jwlhall) Interesting. As has been said above it would be interesting to split the questions into sport and trad (for me anyway!)
> Tim

You could always repeat the survey selecting the other option to the one you picked (trad or sport) although you may find the differences in the final report are subtle.
TimB - on 06 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

I thought it was pretty good, and I liked the summary at the end.

One thing that always irks me about this kind of survey is that they always seem to assume that the respondents are young-ish, beginner-ish climbers who are focused on improving and who mostly toprope, sport climb a bit and are scared by trad.

This may be an accurate description of 90% of the UK climbing public, but it make it difficult to answer the questions for at least two other groups : experienced 40-somethings like me, who focus more on maintaining a good level rather than continually trying to improve, and extremely competent higher-end trad/adventure climbers like Adam who have a very different set of motivations (although I suspect that people like this are a small enough minority to be statistically insignificant -sorry Adam!)


jwlhall - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to TimB:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
>
> I thought it was pretty good, and I liked the summary at the end.
>
> One thing that always irks me about this kind of survey is that they always seem to assume that the respondents are young-ish, beginner-ish climbers who are focused on improving and who mostly toprope, sport climb a bit and are scared by trad.
>
> This may be an accurate description of 90% of the UK climbing public, but it make it difficult to answer the questions for at least two other groups : experienced 40-somethings like me, who focus more on maintaining a good level rather than continually trying to improve, and extremely competent higher-end trad/adventure climbers like Adam who have a very different set of motivations (although I suspect that people like this are a small enough minority to be statistically insignificant -sorry Adam!)

The more full-on trad climbers we get the better - this is is group that it should be clearest to see the result we are after from. But we didn't want do exclude sport too, and if we get a large number of those responses we should be able to see the same effect.
Trangia - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to TimB:
> (In reply to jwlhall)
>
> > One thing that always irks me about this kind of survey is that they always seem to assume that the respondents are young-ish, beginner-ish climbers who are focused on improving and who mostly toprope, sport climb a bit and are scared by trad.
>
>

That struck me too. In fact there was one question relating to work, but no facility for answering it if you are, like me, retired, so not working!

I too found it too long and repetative and finally gave up through boredom - sorry John.
Howard J - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: I struggled with the questions about feeling fear when practising. Apart from the fact that I don't often practice, I just go climbing, 'practice' to me implies a fairly safe environment, such as an indoor wall. Once it get scary, it ceases to be 'practice' and becomes very real!
ericinbristol - on 07 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

Tried but you lost me almost completely due to the pointlessly ambiguous questions: for example, sport climbing maximum consistent lead grade. You don't bother to specify on sight or redpoint.
martym - on 08 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall:

You've stated you used the "minimum number of questions" - what's the benchmark here? 1000?
You ask the same thing over and over - if this is only to ensure that people are telling the truth, then DON'T ask so many questions - people will get bored and start skimming and just clicking "don't care"

I am always interested in climbing research and finding out about this stuff - but I would take your results with a grain of salt - I know my responses don't represent me in any way. How could they?
I climb both sport and trad; sometimes I climb hard, sometimes not. Sometimes I love a day out rambling, others I want to really push it.
In life I don't like my job but love my family.
You look at the "Hardiness score" (you must giggle every time you read that to your supervisor!) and none of that is revealed.

Seriously mate, go back to the drawing board, you've got a chance to do some seriously interesting research -but this isn't it.
ColinD on 09 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: Interesting, although many are subjective. I reckon thats why the counter control questions exist.

I was asked what grade I climb recently... it depends on the route; length & style, and who's holding my rope. But ultimately if I'm having a good time, then it's the right grade and my mind will be relaxed...

For many years I solo'd at about the grade I would lead. I guess I should of led harder routes.

jwlhall - on 13 Apr 2013
In reply to jwlhall: More than 500 complete survey responses - many thanks. And a great debate on this thread too, the positive and negative comments are really useful input. An amazing climbing community! We are continuing to collect data over the next month with the help of the BMC amongst others and will report in September in full. Cheers John
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