External Distraction and Attentional Narrowing: Visual Search Evidence

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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We examined distraction and attentional narrowing in a dual-task auto-racing simulation. Participants were randomly assigned to six groups: distraction control, distraction anxiety, relevant control, relevant anxiety, central control, and central anxiety. Those in central conditions performed a driving task; the other four groups identified peripheral lights in addition to driving. Irrelevant peripheral lights were included in distraction conditions. Participants in anxiety conditions were exposed to increasing levels of anxiety via a time-to-event paradigm. In 3 sessions of 20 trials, measures of cognitive anxiety, arousal. visual search patterns, and performance were recorded. At higher levels of anxiety, the identification of peripheral lights became slower and less accurate. and significant performance decrements occurred in central and peripheral tasks. Furthermore, visual search patterns were more eccentric in the distraction anxiety group. Results suggest that drivers who are highly anxious experience an altered ability to acquire peripheral information at the perceptual level.

Christopher M. Janelle and Robert N. Singer are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Florida. 110 Florida Gym, Gainesville. FL 32611. A. Mark Williams is with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Science, School of Human Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK L3 3AF.

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