Self-Focused Attention and Performance Failure under Psychological Stress

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 National Taiwan College of Physical Education
  • 2 University of Hong Kong
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Although it has often been implied that self-focused attention plays a mediating role in performance degradation under stress, the assumption that stress will evoke self-focus has received limited empirical support. Two studies were carried out to explore this relationship. The first study, using a time-to-event paradigm, showed that a higher level of self-focused attention accompanied increased anxiety levels in the buildup to competition. In the second study, basketball novices who were instructed to focus on the mechanics of the ball-shooting process during practice suffered a significant performance decrement in a subsequent stressful test phase, whereas those who were required only to do their best during practice showed no degradation in performance. It was concluded that self-focused attention may increase in response to psychological stress, and that the negative effect of self-focused attention on performance under stress is likely to be magnified by learning the skill under a high degree of self-focused attention, which can result in an overawareness of the performance process.

C-M. Liao, Dept. of Athletics, National Taiwan College of Physical Education, 16 Shuan-Shih Rd Section 1, Taichung 404, Taiwan; R.S.W. Masters, Phys Ed & Sports Sciences Unit, L. Ride Sports Ctr, 111-113 Pokfulam Rd, Univ. of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

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