Archive for the 'Libri' Category

The online brain effects

Firth J, Torous J, Stubbs B, Firth JA, Steiner GZ, Smith L, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Gleeson J, Vancampfort D, Armitage CJ, Sarris J. The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;18(2):119-129.

The impact of the Internet across multiple aspects of modern society is clear. However, the influence that it may have on our brain structure and functioning remains a central topic of investigation. Here we draw on recent psychological, psychiatric and neuroimaging findings to examine several key hypotheses on how the Internet may be changing our cognition. Specifically, we explore how unique features of the online world may be influencing:

  1. attentional capacities, as the constantly evolving stream of online information encourages our divided attention across multiple media sources, at the expense of sustained concentration;
  2. memory processes, as this vast and ubiquitous source of online information begins to shift the way we retrieve, store, and even value knowledge; and
  3. social cognition, as the ability for online social settings to resemble and evoke real-world social processes creates a new interplay between the Internet and our social lives, including our self-concepts and self-esteem.

Overall, the available evidence indicates that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in each of these areas of cognition, which may be reflected in changes in the brain. However, an emerging priority for future research is to determine the effects of extensive online media usage on cognitive development in youth, and examine how this may differ from cognitive outcomes and brain impact of uses of Internet in the elderly.

We conclude by proposing how Internet research could be integrated into broader research settings to study how this unprecedented new facet of society can affect our cognition and the brain across the life course.

The self-talk relevance

Van Raalte, Vincent, and Brewer (2016) provided a definition that emphasizes the linguistic features of self-talk. According to them, self-talk is ‘the syntactically recognizable articulation of an internal position that can be expressed internally or out loud, where the sender of the message is also the intended receiver’ (p. 141). The addition of the term ‘syntactically recognizable’ is of particular importance since it distinguishes self-talk from other verbalizations (such as shouts of frustration like aaahhhh!), self-statements made through gestures, and self-statements made outside of the context of formal language. Defining self-talk as an ‘articulation of an internal position’ also contributes to anchor its meaning within the individual and places the origin of self-talk in consciousness and information processing.

Self-talk has many potential applications, including breaking bad habits and sustaining efforts in acquiring new skills and is normally categorized in 3 types: positive, instructional and negative.

Positive self-talk focuses on increasing energy and efforts but does not carry any task-related clue (e.g., ‘I can do it’). Positive self-talk thus shapes our minds with thoughts enabling us to manage difficult situations and stress more effectively. It also increases motivation and it is therefore essential for athletes to attain consistent and optimal performance (Blumenstein & Lidor, 2007).

Instructional self-talk helps the performers’ understanding of task requirements by facilitating their attendance to task relevant cues that aid the players’ concentration during task execution. As such instructional self-talk can be said to help athletes in focusing on the technical aspects of the performance and in improving their motor skills (Hardy, Begley, & Blanchfield, 2015).

Negative self-talk is critical and gets in the way of a person’s reaching goals. Negative selftalk thus interferes with a positive mindset, creates a failure mentality, deflates self-confidence, reduces motivation, generates anxiety, and disrupts optimal arousal (Burton & Raedeke 2008).

Unfortunately, coaches in many football academies display a considerable lack of knowledge concerning the training of players’ mental skills (Harwood & Anderson 2015). This crucial lack of knowledge has determined an under appreciation of the contribution of both concentration and self-talk to elite football performance.

Source: Farina, M. and Cei, A. (2019). Concentration and self-talk in football. In Konter, E., J. Beckmann and T.M. Loughead (Eds.), Football psychology. New York: Routledge.

Book review: Calcio magico

Francesco Fasiolo

Calcio magico. Oracoli, rituali e scaramanzie: il paradosso dell’irrazionale nel pallone

Ultra Sport, 2022



Il tema, assolutamente inedito nel panorama editoriale sportivo/calcistico, era troppo accattivante per non parlarne. “Calcio magico” infatti parte da una considerazione tanto vera quanto illogica: in un calcio fatto, oggi come oggi, da regole di finanza, economia, tecnologia e chi più ne ha più ne metta, la scaramanzia, la superstizione, i riti propiziatori di ancestrale memoria restano comunque protagonisti alla pari di tutti gli altri fattori. Il lavoro di Fasiolo, giornalista di Repubblica, si alterna tra Europa e Sudamerica tra aneddoti gustosi e oracoli bizzarri alla ricerca del perché nel calcio ci si appelli anche, se non soprattutto, a bizzarrie simili sulla falsariga dell’italico “non è vero ma ci credo” .

Cosa c’entrano con questo mondo i maghi, gli animali indovini, gli atti di fede, i numeri sfortunati, i rimedi anti-iella, le maledizioni e i vestiti portafortuna? C’entrano eccome, perché l’irrazionale spunta da ogni angolo di questo articolato meccanismo. Ce lo ricordano il rituale degli Azzurri campioni di Europa nel 2021 (Vialli “dimenticato” sul pullman prima di ogni match) e quello della Francia campione del mondo nel ’98 (il bacio propiziatorio sulla testa di Barthez), le previsioni pubbliche del polpo Paul, infallibile oracolo degli Europei del 2008 e dei Mondiali del 2010, gli incredibili riti prepartita di campioni internazionali e le avversioni di tanti presidenti per i numeri 13 e 17. “Calcio magico” si occupa delle superstizioni “interne al sistema”, quelle dei protagonisti dello show: calciatori, allenatori e club. Una casistica variegata e curiosa, che spinge a interrogarsi sul fenomeno con un approccio antropologico: questo abbandonarsi all’illogico è una sorta di resistenza alle ragioni della modernità?

The defeat of Italian soccer is in the numbers: no youth, no world cup

The 12th edition of the ReportCalcio, prepared by the Figc Study Center in collaboration with Arel (Agency for Research and Legislation) and PwC Italia (PricewaterhouseCoopers), has been presented. Published in full on the Federcalcio website.

It clearly emerges that the difficulty of our national team is largely determined by the difficulty of young players to find space in Serie A teams. In fact, the average number of Italian Under-21 players in the Serie A league is 2.7 boys per team. The percentage of minutes played by Italian Under-21 players out of the total minutes in the league is 4 percent. Those deployed as starters per team per game in Serie A is 0.43.

Returning to the national discourse, emphasis should be placed on the fact that of the 75 players born after 2001 who have taken part in a Serie A match, only 46% are of Italian nationality (35). In addition to not having too many youngsters in the Italian league, more than half are not even eligible for Italy. In the last convocations for the U21 national team, coach Nicolato called 27 players and only 11 were those from Serie A (including 5 boys from 2000).

The second glaring difference concerns, unfortunately, the amount of national U21 players fielded in their respective leagues: as mentioned above, in Serie A only 46% are eligible for the Italian national team. In Spain as many as 72% of the U21 youngsters deployed are Spanish. In France they are 64 percent and in England 58 percent. Germany’s is the only league where there is a lower percentage than ours (43 percent), even though their youngsters participate more in clubs. The Italian U21s as a whole have collected 112 starting appearances since the beginning of the season, while the German ones already have 137 appearances (and let’s leave out that they have only 18 teams in the Bundesliga).

Thus, a depressing picture emerges for the Italian league. We are not even close to the levels of the other major leagues. Moreover, the young U21s present in Serie A are not included in the top teams.

Review: Il controllo del pallone

Il controllo del pallone 

I cattolici, i comunisti e il calcio in Italia (1943-anni settanta)

Fabien Archambault

Le Monnier, 2022, p. 420, euro 29

This book delves into the role of soccer in the Italian political struggle from the post-war period to the 1970s, and also highlights the role of Uisp in that historical phase. One of the hypotheses it proposes is that the link between the football sphere and the political sphere is at the origin of the rise of soccer in Italian mass culture, in place of cycling. In fact, the history of this sport clarifies the strategies of political framing, social rootedness and consensus building carried out by the Church, the Christian Democrats and the Communist Party, from the fall of Fascism until the end of the 1970s. In fact, soccer represented one of the significant dimensions of the clash between Catholics on one side and the Communist and Socialist left on the other. Both political alignments used the forms of associative sociality tied to the soccer movement to promote their own projects.

Sergio Giuntini, sports historian, appreciated the book, in particular for its contribution to critical reflection on the evolution of the sports phenomenon in Italy. We propose his review of the text.

“On the Uisp history, and in particular on its genetic phases and on the years between the 60s and 70s of the so-called ” alternative” turning point, there is a reasonable literature. To enrich it, we would like to mention the recent, excellent work “Il controllo del pallone. I cattolici, i comunisti e il calcio in Italia (1943-anni Settanta)” by Frenchman Fabien Archambault, associate professor of Contemporary History at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. The basic thesis put forward by Archambault in his book is as follows: the development of Italian soccer, in the second post-war period, when it progressively became the most popular sport in the country to the detriment of cycling, depended on its rather close ties with the political sphere. On the one hand, it was used by the Church, the Christian Democrats, Luigi Gedda’s Italian Sports Center, and on the other by the Italian Communist Party, Enrico Berlinguer’s Youth Front, and Uisp, for their own strategies of social settlement and political framing of the masses aimed at gaining consensus.

From this point of view, the clash between these two fronts regarding football, and it is not by chance that the essay opens with a tasty football brawl between Don Camillo and Peppone taken from the works of Giovanni Guareschi, was very hard, with no holds barred, initially prevailing over the Catholic-moderate one perched around the widespread network of oratories and parishes. However, Uisp tried to react to this hegemony of “oratorical soccer”, and Archambault’s book offers some emblematic examples, especially in the second chapter: “Popular Football” (pp. 71-118). That is to say, in that difficult post-war season marked by the epochal defeat of April 18, 1948, the Union strove to outline its own specific football ideology and, within such an elaboration, to establish a problematic relationship between amateur and professional soccer. Nevertheless, Archambault’s text offers an enlightening overview of the many political and administrative sabotages suffered by the Uisp in that period: from police reports to the prefectures, which portrayed it as a “secret” organization with insurrectional intentions, to the failed and instrumental concession of the facilities, which were instead granted to parishes and sections of the CSI. One of the reasons why, at that time, the Uisp was forced to focus more on cycling, a sport that does not need playing fields, than on soccer.

This climate of frontal clash will be attenuated with the 60′s, even though they were politically very hot, reaching a greater mutual legitimacy by the two sides. And for this reason, it is necessary to call into question the greater ability of the Uisp, compared to Catholic sports, to understand the profound transformations that were affecting Italian sports and society. In conclusion, this is a book of great importance, supported by an impressive amount of archival documents, that gives a fundamental contribution to the critical reflection on the evolution of the sports phenomenon in Italy and on the internal history of the Uisp”.

Amazing Nadal

Besides having a die-hard psychology maybe this is the most important secret of Nadal’s success: “I went through a lot of hard times, a lot of days of hard work without seeing the light, but continuing to work and getting a lot of support from my team and family.

“I went through a lot of challenging moments, a lot of days of hard work without seeing a light there but still working and receiving plenty of support from my team and family,” he told reporters of what sparked that emotional reaction.

“So a lot of conversations with the team, with family about what can happen or what will happen if things continue like this, thinking maybe it was a chance to say goodbye. That was not a lot of months ago.

“To be where I am today, I can’t explain in words how important it is to me in terms of self-satisfaction and being thankful for the support.”

“Every single day. For a lot of months, sometimes I went on court with the team and was not able to practice for 20 minutes, nowadays for 45 minutes, and then sometimes I was able to practice for two hours. It was very difficult to predict every single day and I was working with the doctor, trying to find a solution.When if he was over his injury, Nadal said: “Well, it’s difficult to think about it now, but, you never know.

“As I say a lot of times, when could you comeback from injuries that, unfortunately I know about it very well, things are always difficult and you need to go day by day.

“You need to accept the mistakes. You need to forgive yourself when the things are not going the proper way, because that’s the only way.

“You know at the beginning the things are going to be difficult.

“Of course, you will not have the best feelings sometimes on court, but staying positive, playing with the right energy and, of course, being on the tour, practising with the guys and winning matches, for sure, helps and last week had been important for me.

Book: Fondamenti di Psicologia dello Sport

Sport psychology is a discipline that has been able to carve out its own space within psychology and sports sciences and their teaching. The main topics that this subject deals with concern eight major areas: cognitive processes involved in motor control and sports performance; psychological skills involved in different types of disciplines; motivational processes; the role of the coach and training organization; sports programs for children; well-being and health; interpersonal skills and group dynamics; self-regulation processes, levels of activation and systems to deal with competitive stress. In “Fondamenti di psicologia dello sport” (Il Mulino, 296 pages, 27 euros) Alberto Cei illustrates the knowledge that sport psychology has acquired in these main areas and provides a panorama capable of satisfying teachers, students and also those who are interested or want to approach this discipline (Source: Tuttosport).

Book review: The Kaepernick Effect

The Kaepernick Effect

Taking a Knee, Changing the World
Dave Zirin

Riveting and inspiring first-person stories of how “taking a knee” triggered an awakening in sports, f  from the celebrated sportswriter

 “The Kaepernick Effect reveals that Colin Kaepernick’s story is bigger than one athlete. With profiles  of courage that leap off the page, Zirin uncovers a whole national movement of citizen-athletes  fighting for racial justice.” —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award–winning author of Stamped  from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

 In 2016, amid an epidemic of police shootings of African Americans, the celebrated NFL quarterback  Colin Kaepernick began a series of quiet protests on the field, refusing to stand during the U.S.  national anthem. By “taking a knee,” Kaepernick bravely joined a long tradition of American athletes  making powerful political statements. This time, however, Kaepernick’s simple act spread like  wildfire throughout American society, becoming the preeminent symbol of resistance to America’s  persistent racial inequality.

Critically acclaimed sports journalist and author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States,  Dave Zirin chronicles “the Kaepernick effect” for the first time, through interviews with a broad cross-section of professional athletes across many different sports, college stars and high-powered athletic directors, and high school athletes and coaches. In each case, he uncovers the fascinating explanations and motivations behind a mass political movement in sports, through deeply personal and inspiring accounts of risk-taking, activism, and courage both on and off the field.

A book about the politics of sport, and the impact of sports on politics, The Kaepernick Effect is for anyone seeking to understand an essential dimension of the new movement for racial justice in America

How to become expert

To the many young psychologists who want to enter working in sport, I would like to suggest that, regardless of their past and future educational backgrounds, they begin by asking themselves the following questions : “Who are the expert people?” and “How do you become an expert in a specific field?”

These are relevant questions when one wants to work in the field of performance psychology. Speaking of sports we should ask ourselves, when an athlete become an expert and the same goes for the coach. The same reasoning applies to the psychologist: how and when I will become an expert sports psychologist. What should one do to become one?

These are reflections that require a complex explanation and those who are at the beginning of a career probably do not have a precise and clear answer to provide. I don’t want to provide one either, although I do have a very precise one in my mind.

The young professional must discover it for himself/herself, even through the choices he/she makes. Certainly today there is much to read about this concept of the expert, and it would be nice to delve into the theoretical aspect of the matter as well.

What is certain is that one must, however, give oneself an answer and undertake a path to realize one’s goal of competence, which is the basis of the expertise that He/she will be achieved.

Let’s reflect.

The mistake management: why is it so difficult

In many cultures there are sayings that remind us how important it is to learn to react to negative situations and mistakes. They say, for example, “When a door closes, a big door opens,” while US people like to repeat, “It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how quickly you get back up,” and the Japanese say, “Fall seven times, get back up the eighth.” These statements highlight that in order to be successful, one must develop a full awareness of how common it is to make mistakes and how equally relevant it is to react constructively.

There are no shortcuts, because mistakes cannot be eliminated; you have to make mistakes, like during an obstacle course in which you are aware at all times that you can make mistakes, slow down, make a great effort to overcome an obstacle even if you are well prepared and know the path. So, if this is the way to go, it is necessary to prevent mistakes from becoming an alibi used to confirm to oneself the impossibility of overcoming one’s current limits, with the effect of determining a reduction in commitment, since “There’s nothing to do anyway” or “Yes, there is a lot to do, but I’m not talented enough or I’m unlucky”. It is therefore necessary to build, through daily activity, a work culture that considers error as an integral part of the improvement process.

On the other hand, sport is a context in which the presence of errors is a constant in every performance, very often even in winning ones. In skeet shooting, the world record, hitting 125 over 125 has been achieved 12 times in the last 25 years. On every other occasion, shooters have always made mistakes. In the sports of body coordination in space, there are very few times when an athlete, male or female, has achieved the highest score.

In basketball, Michael Jordan said, “In my life I have missed over nine thousand shots, I have lost almost three hundred games, twenty-six times my teammates have entrusted me with the decisive shot and I have missed. I failed many times. And that’s why in the end I won everything.” Also in basketball, in the EuroLeague only 8.5% of players made 90% of their free throws, 35% made 80%, 32% made 70% of their attempts, and 24% made less than 70% (Cei 2018). In soccer, everyone misses penalties from Roberto Baggio in the ’94 World Cup final to those misses by Messi, Modric and Ronaldo at the World Cup in Russia.

Despite these data, many athletes do not accept the possibility of making mistakes, sometimes they are even surprised: “Because everything was going so well” or “Because I felt so good that I thought I could never make a mistake” while other times the difficulty in accepting them emerges when the athlete is in the opposite situation, so he thinks: “It could not have been worse, that mistake caught me suddenly and I did not know how to react, I got confused thinking about what to do differently and from there it was a ruin”. Both these situations, one positive and the second negative, reported by the athletes quite frequently, highlight the difficulty in accepting the error and not having previously planned a way to deal with what could have negatively affected the performance.