The Influence of Anxiety on Visual Attentional Control in Basketball Free Throw Shooting

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Mark R. Wilson University of Exeter

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Samuel J. Vine University of Exeter

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Greg Wood University of Exeter

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The aim of this study was to test the predictions of attentional control theory using the quiet eye period as an objective measure of attentional control. Ten basketball players took free throws in two counterbalanced experimental conditions designed to manipulate the anxiety they experienced. Point of gaze was measured using an ASL Mobile Eye tracker and fixations including the quiet eye were determined using frame-by-frame analysis. The manipulation of anxiety resulted in significant reductions in the duration of the quiet eye period and free throw success rate, thus supporting the predictions of attentional control theory. Anxiety impaired goal-directed attentional control (quiet eye period) at the expense of stimulus-driven control (more fixations of shorter duration to various targets). The findings suggest that attentional control theory may be a useful theoretical framework for examining the relationship between anxiety and performance in visuomotor sport skills.

The authors are with the School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, St. Luke’s Campus, Exeter, U.K.

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