To execute flawlessly and automatically in sports competition is the goal of any serious athlete. Automaticity suggests nonconscious attention to the act itself while executing, and not being aware of and therefore vulnerable to external and internal distractors. Self-paced sports and events in sports allow time for preparing to perform in a stable and predictable situation. More recently, cognitive, behavioral, and psychophysiological measures associated with developing and realizing proficiency in such acts have become increasingly identified. Many themes associated with these topics appear in the scholarly literature: conscious vs. nonconscious, controlled vs. automatic, voluntary vs. involuntary, explicit vs. implicit, systematic vs. heuristic, willed vs. nonwilled, aware vs. unaware, internal vs. externally oriented, and intentional vs. unintentional behaviors. Implications are being made about ways to influence the learning process by modeling expertise behaviors, as well as enhancing the performance of elite athletes. Of particular importance is the immediate preperformance and during-performance routine that serves as a mechanism for self-regulation of arousal level, thoughts, performance expectancy, and attentional focus.
Christopher M. Janelle, Robert N. Singer and A. Mark Williams
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.
Robert N. Singer, Charmaine DeFrancesco and Lynda E. Randal
(Singer, 1986) on achievement in laboratory and simulated self-paced sport tasks were investigated. Forty undergraduates were randomly stratified according to gender into four treatment groups: (a) a strategy group that initially practiced the strategy while learning the laboratory task (SL), (b) a laboratory control group that began the experiment by learning the task without the strategy (CL), (c) a strategy group that initially applied the strategy to the learning of an applied sport task (SA), and (d) a control group that initially learned the sport task without the strategy (CA). Following the completion of 48 trials with the primary task, all groups performed 50 trials on a transfer task. ANOVAs indicated that both strategy groups performed significantly better than their respective control groups in the primary tasks. Results of the transfer task indicated that the SA group performed at the same level as the SL group but outperformed both control groups. It was concluded that the strategy facilitates achievement in laboratory as well as applied self-paced tasks.