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Robert Russell, Jared Porter, and Olivia Campbell

This study examined the interaction between a skill/extraneous attentional focus and an internal/external focus of attention using a dual-task paradigm. Thirty-two low-skill participants completed a primary dart-throwing task with their dominant arm while simultaneously performing a secondary arm-stabilizing task with their nondominant arm. Two aspects of the participants’ attentional focus were manipulated: skill versus extraneous focus and external versus internal focus. Participants completed 120 trials across four conditions created by combining the dimensions of the two variables. Performance on the primary task was assessed by measuring throwing accuracy and the kinematics of the throwing action. Results indicated that accuracy improved under the external, skill-oriented condition relative to all other conditions; no differences between the remaining conditions were observed. These findings suggest that an external, skill-oriented focus of attention is needed to facilitate performance improvements in novices.

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Jared Porter, Hubert Makaruk, and Marcin Starzak

According to the constrained action hypothesis, an external focus of attention is beneficial for motor learning due to improvements in movement automization. In contrast, an internal focus of attention interferes with automaticity and decreases the effects of motor learning. This study was designed to test the automaticity assumption of the focus of attention effect within a highly skilled population. We examined the effects of attentional focus on kinematics in rope jumping and visual control. Participants practiced the rope-jumping task over five days of acquisition, which was followed by a retention and transfer test. The findings provided evidence that the learning of the task was improved and automaticity was increased by the external focus compared with the internal focus and no attentional (i.e., control condition) conditions. In addition, these findings indicate that visual attention as a function of attentional focus has a stronger relationship with practice performance rather than with motor learning effects.

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Ayoub Asadi, Alireza Farsi, Behrouz Abdoli, Esmaeel Saemi, and Jared M. Porter

There were two aims to the present study. First, we sought to investigate how a form of self-controlled practice compared to a well-established strategy of explicitly directing a mover’s attention externally when performing the standing long jump. Those two forms of practice were also compared to conditions in which participants were instructed to focus their attention internally or neutrally (i.e., control condition). Second, we investigated if the skill level of the participants was a factor in the comparison of these two forms of training (i.e., directing attention externally and self-controlled practice). In the External condition, volunteers were told to focus on jumping toward a cone that was placed in front of them at a distance of 5-m. In the Internal condition, participants were told to focus on the extension of their knees. In the Self-control condition, volunteers were allowed to choose a distant target to focus their attention on while executing the jump. Participants also completed jumps in a Control condition in which no explicit instructions were provided. Results demonstrated that both skilled and low-skilled participants jumped significantly farther in the External and Self-control conditions compared to jumps completed in the Control and Internal conditions. The findings of this study demonstrate that providing instructions that direct attention externally, or allowing the participant to choose where to direct their attention, resulted in similar enhancements in jumping performance in both low- and high-skilled jumpers.

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Hubert Makaruk, Jared M. Porter, Barbara Długołęcka, Urszula Parnicka, and Beata Makaruk

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of different foci of attention on parameters related to maximum muscular power in older women. Using a counterbalanced within-participant design, 23 physically active young-old women (age 59-69) completed a maximum effort cycle ergometer test following three types of verbal instructions. The external instruction (EXF) was designed to focus attention on moving the pedals as fast as possible, internal instruction (INF) directed attention toward moving the legs as fast as possible, and a control condition (CON) was created in which participants were instructed to perform the task to the best of their abilities. Results indicated that the EXF and CON conditions resulted in greater muscular power compared with the INF condition. Results also indicated that directing attention internally hindered muscular power performance in older women, which is consistent with the predictions of the constrained action hypothesis.