Although it has often been implied that self-focused attention plays a mediating role in performance degradation under stress, the assumption that stress will evoke self-focus has received limited empirical support. Two studies were carried out to explore this relationship. The first study, using a time-to-event paradigm, showed that a higher level of self-focused attention accompanied increased anxiety levels in the buildup to competition. In the second study, basketball novices who were instructed to focus on the mechanics of the ball-shooting process during practice suffered a significant performance decrement in a subsequent stressful test phase, whereas those who were required only to do their best during practice showed no degradation in performance. It was concluded that self-focused attention may increase in response to psychological stress, and that the negative effect of self-focused attention on performance under stress is likely to be magnified by learning the skill under a high degree of self-focused attention, which can result in an overawareness of the performance process.
Chu-Min Liao and Richard S.W. Masters
Jamie M. Poolton, Richard S.W. Masters, and Jon P. Maxwell
Learning a motor skill by analogy can benefit performers because the movement that is developed has characteristics of implicit motor learning: namely, movement robustness under pressure and secondary task distraction and limited accrual of explicit knowledge (Liao & Masters, 2001). At an applied level the advantages are lost, however, if the heuristic that underpins the analogy conveys abstractions that are inappropriate for the indigenous culture. The aim of the current experiment was to redevelop Masters’s (2000) right-angled-triangle analogy to accommodate abstractions appropriate for Chinese learners. Novice Chinese participants learned to hit table tennis forehands with topspin using either a redeveloped, culturally appropriate analogy (analogy learning) or a set of 6 instructions relevant to hitting a topspin forehand in table tennis (explicit learning). Analogy learners accrued less explicit knowledge of the movements underlying their performance than explicit learners. In addition, a secondary task load disrupted the performance of explicit learners but not analogy learners. These findings indicate that a culturally relevant analogy can bring about implicit motor learning in a Chinese population.