Audiovisual feedback modes are designed to give performance feedback to an athlete to manipulate their behaviour and optimize cognitive performance. The feedback that is layered on top of the cognitive task will determine the effect on the athlete and cognitive training task.

First, we must understand what the difference is between giving positive feedback (reward) and negative feedback (punishment) to our athletes and how this will impact the cognitive training plan.

Reward Sensitivity

Reward sensitivity encompasses individual differences in the tendency to detect, pursue, learn from, and derive pleasure from positive stimuli. It is a component of temperament and personality, showing large variations between individuals and moderate consistency within individuals over time.

Punishment Sensitivity

Individuals who are sensitive to punishment are thought to respond more negatively to punishment (e.g. aversive response), have more attention to cues of punishment, and show more avoidance behaviour in response to cues of punishment in the environment.

Positive Feedback

  • Audio +

  • Visual +

Negative Feedback

  • Audio -

  • Visual -

Neutral Feedback

  • Audio - + (Neural)

  • Visual - + (Neural)

Research has shown that athletes who are punishment sensitive and not reward-sensitive, are more mentally tough. This means that an athlete who is mentally tough will adapt their behaviour to avoid a negative stimulus such as a negative tone or a negative visual stimulus. Therefore, by applying a negative audio or visual stimulus, you can increase an athlete's punishment sensitivity and manipulate their behaviour to responses. You can also apply a positive audio or visual stimulus to increase their reward sensitivity, which may be useful for athletes that are really struggling with certain tasks because it gives them some positive reinforcement.

Depending on the desired outcome from the cognitive training plan, you can choose to apply a feedback mode. If you want your athlete to adapt their behaviour, decrease error rate, increase cognitive performance and increase their mental toughness, we suggest applying negative feedback.

If you want to give an athlete who is struggling with their cognitive training plan some positive reinforcement, we suggest applying positive feedback.

If you are trying to just provide response feedback we suggest applying neutral feedback.


  • Mental toughness or punishment sensitivity, apply negative feedback.

  • Positive reinforcement, apply positive feedback.

  • Response feedback, apply neutral feedback.


The findings show that high-level cricketers who are punishment sensitive, but not reward-sensitive, detect threat early and can maintain goal-directed behaviour under pressure from a range of different stressors.

🔗 Read Article

Results add to previous research showing that athletes who are sensitive to punishment and insensitive to reward display stronger MT behaviours and as a consequence, swim faster.

🔗 Read Article

Heightened sensitivity to punishment is adaptive for performance under pressure, provided threats are detected early and effective cognitive strategies are implemented.

🔗 Read Article

Did this answer your question?