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Guoxiao Sun, Liwei Zhang, Samuel J. Vine and Mark R. Wilson

Longer quiet eye (QE) periods are associated with better performance across a range of targeting and interceptive tasks. However, the direction of this relationship is still unclear. The two studies presented aimed to narrow this knowledge gap by experimentally manipulating QE duration—by delaying its onset or by truncating its offset—in an aiming interceptive task. In Experiment 1, the early trajectory was occluded, causing significantly shorter QE durations and worse subsequent performance. In Experiment 2, both early and/or late trajectory were occluded. Performance was degraded by the occlusion of either early or late information, and the worst performance occurred when both the early and late trajectory were occluded. Taken together, the results suggest that QE is not a by-product of performance but instead plays a causal role in supporting the interception of a moving target through a combination of preprogramming and online control processes.

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Greg Wood, Samuel J. Vine, Johnny Parr and Mark R. Wilson

In three experiments, we explored the use of deceptive gaze in soccer penalty takers using eye-tracking equipment. In Experiment 1, players competed against a goalkeeper while taking unconstrained shots. Results indicated that when players used deception (looking to the opposite side to which they shot), they extended the duration of their final aiming (quiet eye) fixation and maintained shooting accuracy. In Experiment 2, with no goalkeeper present, players still used extended quiet-eye durations when using a deceptive strategy, but this time, their accuracy suffered. In Experiment 3, we manipulated the goalkeeper’s location while controlling for the use of peripheral vision and memory of goal size. Results indicated that increased quiet-eye durations were required when using deceptive aiming, and that accuracy was influenced by the position of the goalkeeper. We conclude that during deceptive aiming, soccer players maintain accuracy by covertly processing information related to the goalkeeper’s location.

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Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine and Greg Wood

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.

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Mark R. Wilson, Greg Wood and Samuel J. Vine

The current study sought to test the predictions of attentional control theory (ACT) in a sporting environment. Fourteen experienced footballers took penalty kicks under low- and high-threat counterbalanced conditions while wearing a gaze registration system. Fixations to target locations (goalkeeper and goal area) were determined using frame-by-frame analysis. When anxious, footballers made faster first fixations and fixated for significantly longer toward the goalkeeper. This disruption in gaze behavior brought about significant reductions in shooting accuracy, with shots becoming significantly centralized and within the goalkeeper’s reach. These findings support the predictions of ACT, as anxious participants were more likely to focus on the “threatening” goalkeeper, owing to an increased influence of the stimulus-driven attentional control system.

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Mark A. King, Cassie Wilson and Maurice R. Yeadon

This study used an optimization procedure to evaluate an 8-segment torque-driven subject-specific computer simulation model of the takeoff phase in running jumps for height. Kinetic and kinematic data were obtained on a running jump performed by an elite male high jumper. Torque generator activation timings were varied to minimize the difference between simulation and performance in terms of kinematic and kinetic variables subject to constraints on the joint angles at takeoff to ensure that joints remained within their anatomical ranges of motion. A percentage difference of 6.6% between simulation and recorded performance was obtained. Maximizing the height reached by the mass center during the flight phase by varying torque generator activation timings resulted in a credible height increase of 90 mm compared with the matching simulation. These two results imply that the model is sufficiently complex and has appropriate strength parameters to give realistic simulations of running jumps for height.

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Lee J. Moore, Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine, Adam H. Coussens and Paul Freeman

The present research examined the immediate impact of challenge and threat states on golf performance in both real competition and a laboratory-based task. In Study 1, 199 experienced golfers reported their evaluations of competition demands and personal coping resources before a golf competition. Evaluating the competition as a challenge (i.e., sufficient resources to cope with demands) was associated with superior performance. In Study 2, 60 experienced golfers randomly received challenge or threat manipulation instructions and then performed a competitive golf-putting task. Challenge and threat states were successfully manipulated and the challenge group outperformed the threat group. Furthermore, the challenge group reported less anxiety, more facilitative interpretations of anxiety, less conscious processing, and displayed longer quiet eye durations. However, these variables failed to mediate the group–performance relationship. These studies demonstrate the importance of considering preperformance psychophysiological states when examining the influence of competitive pressure on motor performance.

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Lee J. Moore, Samuel J. Vine, Mark R. Wilson and Paul Freeman

Competitive situations often hinge on one pressurized moment. In these situations, individuals’ psychophysiological states determine performance, with a challenge state associated with better performance than a threat state. But what can be done if an individual experiences a threat state? This study examined one potential solution: arousal reappraisal. Fifty participants received either arousal reappraisal or control instructions before performing a pressurized, single-trial, motor task. Although both groups initially displayed cardiovascular responses consistent with a threat state, the reappraisal group displayed a cardiovascular response more reflective of a challenge state (relatively higher cardiac output and/or lower total peripheral resistance) after the reappraisal manipulation. Furthermore, despite performing similarly at baseline, the reappraisal group outperformed the control group during the pressurized task. The results demonstrate that encouraging individuals to interpret heightened physiological arousal as a tool that can help maximize performance can result in more adaptive cardiovascular responses and motor performance under pressure.

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Neha Malhotra, Jamie M. Poolton, Mark R. Wilson, Liis Uiga and Rich S.W. Masters

Two experiments examined the roles of the dimensions of movement-specific reinvestment (movement selfconsciousness and conscious motor processing) on performance under demanding conditions. In Experiment 1, novice golfers practiced a golf putting task and were tested under low- and high-anxiety conditions. Conscious motor processing was not associated with putting proficiency or movement variability; however, movement self-consciousness was positively associated with putting proficiency and appeared to be negatively associated with variability of impact velocity in low-anxiety conditions, but not in high-anxiety conditions. Increased anxiety and effort possibly left few attention resources for movement self-consciousness under high anxiety. In Experiment 2, participants performed a quiet standing task in single- and dual-task conditions. Movement self-consciousness was positively associated with performance when attention demands were low (single task) but not when attention demands were high (dual task). The findings provide insight into the differential influence of the two dimensions of movement-specific reinvestment under demanding conditions.