Performance benefits exist for an external focus of attention compared with an internal focus of attention for performance and learning (Wulf, 2013). It is unknown, however, if varying the number of verbal cues affects learning and performance. Focus of attention and the number of verbal cues were manipulated during a simulated handgun-shooting task. For the internal focus conditions, participants were told to focus on their hand, arm, and wrist, whereas the external focus instructions were to focus on the gun, gun barrel, and gun stock. To manipulate the number of verbal cues, participants received instruction to focus on a single verbal cue or multiple verbal cues. Shooting performance was assessed at baseline, acquisition, and at two separate retention phases (immediate, delayed) that included transfer tests. Participants completed the NASA—Task Load Index to assess workload following all trials. Participants who received one verbal cue performed significantly better during immediate retention than those who received three verbal cues. Participants who used external focus of attention instructions had higher performance and reported less workload at delayed retention compared to those who used internal focus instructions. This research provides further support for the benefits of an external focus and highlights the importance of minimizing the number of verbal cues.
Raisbeck and Diekfuss are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC.