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Robert N. Singer

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.

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Robert N. Singer

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Robert N. Singer

This article explores techniques that individuals can use during learning and performance to influence thoughts, feelings, and subsequent achievement. Of concern is knowing how to learn—how to perform. Learning strategies can be isolated and task-specific, or combinatorial and more generally applied to related tasks. Researchers have primarily labored in the first area, frequently demonstrating the effectiveness of a particular learning strategy in improving the learning of a certain activity. In more recent years the second area, typically defined as metastrategies, is attracting the interest of scholars. Since the notion of metastrategies is vague, they are difficult to define and pose a challenge to investigate as to their influence in learning/performing situations. This article begins with a general discussion about information processing processes involved in attaining movement skill, and the use of strategies and metastrategies. A proposed global strategy, the Five-Step Strategy, is presented that should be useful in the learning/performing of all types of closed (self-paced) athletic acts. The strategies include readying, imaging, focusing, executing, and evaluating. The learning of task-pertinent strategies appears to be particularly influential in a number of ways, ultimately leading to a higher probability of learning efficiency and performance excellence.

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Iris Orbach, Robert Singer and Sarah Price

This study aimed to investigate the influence of an attribution training program for learners who attribute their sport performance to dysfunctional attributions. Participants were 35 college beginner tennis players who were oriented to attribute their performance in a tennis skill task to controllable, unstable factors; uncontrollable, stable factors; or no specific factors. Participants received fictitious failure feedback over 10 trial blocks administered during four sessions. Dependent variables included attributions, expectations, emotions, persistence, and performance. MANOVA analyses revealed that it is possible to modify attributions in regard to a tennis performance task. More importantly, the new attributions were consistent up to 3 weeks postintervention and were generalized to a different tennis task. In addition, participants who changed their attributions to more functional ones had higher expectations for future success and experienced positive emotions.

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Iris Orbach, Robert N. Singer and Milledge Murphey

There is a shortage of research in which the effect of attribution training interventions on sport performance has been investigated. Therefore, the primary goal of this study was to determine the influence of an attribution training program on individuals who attribute their sport performance to dysfunctional attributions. Sixty college recreational basketball players were oriented to perceive their performance in a basketball skill task as due to (a) controllable, unstable factors, (b) uncontrollable, stable factors, or (c) no specific factors. Dependent variables included attributions and performance time. Using MANOVA and repeated measures factorial ANOVAs, results revealed that it is possible to modify attributions and performance in regard to a basketball performance task. The data are supportive of the potential influence of attribution training in a sport setting and the use of a controllable, unstable dimensional orientation as a means to improve performance.

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Robert N. Singer, Ronnie Lidor and James H. Cauraugh

The effectiveness of three learning strategies on achievement was compared in the learning and performing of a self-paced motor task. More specifically, investigated was the influence of (a) an awareness strategy (to consciously attend to the act and to what one is doing during execution); (b) a nonawareness strategy (to preplan the movement and perform the task without conscious attention to it; “to just do it”); (c) the Five-Step Approach (to systematically ready oneself, image the act, focus attention on a cue, execute without thought, and evaluate the act and the previous steps); and (d) a control condition (to use one’s own approach). Subjects (N = 72) received 250 trials to master a computer-managed ball-throwing task, and 50 more in a dual-task situation. The Five-Step Approach and nonawareness strategies led to the highest achievement, and the three strategies resulted in less radial error in comparison to the control condition.

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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.

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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.

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Gershon Tenenbaum, Robert N. Singer, Evan Stewart and Joan Duda

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Robert N. Singer, James H. Cauraugh, Dapeng Chen, Gregg M. Steinberg, Shane G. Frehlich and Ludong Wang

The trainability of anticipatory skills for tennis was assessed. Subjects (N = 34) from a beginning/intermediate tennis class were randomly assigned to either a mental quickness or a physical quickness (control) training group. They were tested in three laboratory tennis simulation tasks and three on-court tasks (serves, ground strokes, and volleys) 1 week before and after the 3-week quickness training program. Quickness Training × Gender × Test Session (2 × 2 × 2) ANOVAs with repeated measures on the third factor were conducted. For the laboratory tasks, the mental quickness group made faster decisions in reaction to serves, exhibited faster anticipation times, and showed improved accuracy in predicting serve type and location. No improvements in accuracy were found for the physical quickness group. For filmed match-play situations, the mental quickness group improved reaction times with training and committed fewer response errors. Implications for the design of instructional methods used in dynamic and fast-paced sports are discussed.