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Kelly J. Ashford and Robin C. Jackson

The present study examined the effectiveness of a priming paradigm in alleviating skill failure under stress. The priming intervention took the form of a scrambled sentence task. Experiment 1: Thirty-four skilled field-hockey players performed a dribbling task in low- and high-pressure situations under single task, skill-focused, and priming conditions. Results revealed a significant increase in performance time from low to high pressure. In addition, performance in the priming condition was significantly better than in the control and skill-focused conditions. Experiment 2: Thirty skilled field-hockey players completed the same dribbling task as in Experiment 1; however, in addition to the control and skill-focused conditions, participants were allocated to either a positive, neutral, or negative priming condition. Results revealed significant improvements in performance time from the skill focus to the control to the priming condition for the positive and neutral groups. For the negative group, times were significantly slower in the priming condition. Results are discussed in terms of utilizing priming in a sporting context.

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Danielle Adams, Kelly J. Ashford and Robin C. Jackson

The effect of priming on the speed and accuracy of skilled performance and on a probe-reaction time task designed to measure residual attentional capacity, was assessed. Twenty-four skilled soccer players completed a dribbling task under three prime conditions (fluency, skill-focus, and neutral) and a control condition. Results revealed changes in trial completion time and secondary task performance in line with successfully priming autonomous and skill-focused attention. Retention test data for task completion time and probe-reaction time indicated a linear decrease in the priming effect such that the effect was nonsignificant after 30 min. Results provide further support for the efficacy of priming and provide the first evidence of concurrent changes in attentional demands, consistent with promoting or disrupting automatic skill execution.

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Robin C. Jackson, Kelly J. Ashford and Glen Norsworthy

Attentional processes governing skilled motor behavior were examined in two studies. In Experiment 1, field hockey players performed a dribbling task under single-task, dual-task, and skill-focused conditions under both low and high pressure situations. In Experiment 2, skilled soccer players performed a dribbling task under single-task, skill-focused, and process-goal conditions, again under low and high pressure situations. Results replicated recent findings regarding the detrimental effect of skill-focused attention and the facilitative effect of dual-task conditions on skilled performance. In addition, focusing on movement related process goals was found to adversely affect performance. Support for the predictive validity of the Reinvestment Scale was also found, with high reinvesters displaying greater susceptibility to skill failure under pressure. Results were consistent with explicit monitoring theories of choking and are further discussed in light of the conceptual distinction between explicit monitoring and reinvestment of conscious control.