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This study addressed the question, what should baseball players focus their attention on while batting? Less-skilled and highly skilled (college) baseball players participated in four dual-task conditions in a baseball batting simulation: two that directed attention to skill execution (skill/internal [movement of the hands] and skill/external [movement of the bat]) and two that directed attention to the environment (environmental/irrelevant [auditory tones] and environmental/external [the ball leaving the bat]). Batting performance for highly skilled players was best in the environmental/external condition and worst in the skill/internal condition. Performance of less-skilled batters was significantly better in the two skill conditions than in either of the two environmental conditions. We conclude that the optimal focus of attention for highly skilled batters is one that does not disrupt proceduralized knowledge and permits attention to the perceptual effect of the action, whereas the optimal focus of attention for less-skilled batters is one that allows attention to the step-by-step execution of the swing.
The authors are with the Department of Applied Psychology, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ 85212.