The movement kinematics and learning strategies associated with adopting different foci of attention during both acquisition and anxious performance

Lawrence, G. P. and Gottwald, V. M. and Khan, M. A. and Kramer, R. S. S. (2012) The movement kinematics and learning strategies associated with adopting different foci of attention during both acquisition and anxious performance. Frontiers in Psychology, 3 . ISSN 1664-1078

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00468

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Abstract

Research suggests that implicit strategies adopted during learning help prevent breakdown of automatic processes and subsequent performance decrements associated with the presence of pressure. According to the Constrained Action Hypothesis, automaticity of movement is promoted when adopting an external focus of attention. The purpose of the current experiment was to investigate if learning with an external focus of attention can enhance performance under subsequent pressure situations through promoting implicit learning and automaticity. Since previous research has generally used outcome measures of performance, the current study adopted measures of movement production. Specifically, we calculated within-subject variability in trajectory velocity and distance traveled every 10 of movement time. This detailed kinematic analysis allowed investigation into some of the previously unexplored mechanisms responsible for the benefits of adopting an external focus of attention. Novice participants performed a 2.5m golf putt. Following a pre-test, participants were randomly assigned to one of three focus groups (internal, external, control). Participants then completed 400 acquisition trials over two consecutive days before being subjected to both a low anxiety and high anxiety (HA) transfer test. Dependent variables included variability, number of successful putts and mean radial error. Results revealed that variability was greater in the internal compared to the external and control groups. Putting performance revealed that all groups increased performance following acquisition. However, only the control group demonstrated a decrement in performance in the HA transfer test.These findings suggest that adopting an appropriate focus of attention during learning can prevent choking; with an external focus inhibiting the breakdown of automatic processes and an internal focus acting as a self-focus learning strategy and thus desensitizing individuals to anxiety effects.

Keywords:Attentional focus, Performance pressure, Novice performers, Motor skills, Explicit learning
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C600 Sports Science
C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:29116
Deposited On:13 Dec 2017 19:18

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