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Laura J. Petranek, Nicole D. Bolter and Ken Bell

The interactions that physical education teachers have with students (e.g., verbal instructions and feedback about movements) are critical to learning a motor skill ( Rink, 2013 ). Researchers in motor learning have been examining how different types of attentional focus instructions and feedback

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Kelly A. Forrest

Attachment (Bowlby, 1969/1982) is an interdisciplinary theory of social development that views early relationships with caregivers as central to how individuals learn to regulate attention under attachment-related stress (Fonagy & Target, 2002; Main, 2000; Hesse & Main, 2000). This paper proposes that conditions present in competitive sport situations, such as unexpected conditions, fear of failure, fatigue, and coach stress are likely to activate attachment-related attentional processes of athletes and differentially influence attentional flexibility under competitive stress. The attachment-based approach to performance-related problems in which attentional processes are implicated, such as anxiety, choking, and self-regulation, is discussed. Research using the Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1996) is suggested to investigate the distribution of adult attachment classification in the athlete population.

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Francesc Llorens, Daniel Sanabria, Florentino Huertas, Enrique Molina and Simon Bennett

The abrupt onset of a visual stimulus typically results in overt attentional capture, which can be quantified by saccadic eye movements. Here, we tested whether attentional capture following onset of task-irrelevant visual stimuli (new object) is reduced after a bout of intense physical exercise. A group of participants performed a visual search task in two different activity conditions: rest, without any prior effort, and effort, immediately after an acute bout of intense exercise. The results showed that participants exhibited (1) slower reaction time of the first saccade toward the target when a new object was simultaneously presented in the visual field, but only in the rest activity condition, and (2) more saccades to the new object in the rest activity condition than in the effort activity condition. We suggest that immediately after an acute bout of effort, participants improved their ability to inhibit irrelevant (distracting) stimuli.

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Shih-Chun Kao, Chung-Ju Huang and Tsung-Min Hung

The purpose of this study was to determine whether frontal midline theta activity (Fmθ), an indicator of top-down sustained attention, can be used to distinguish an individual’s best and worst golf putting performances during the pre-putt period. Eighteen golfers were recruited and asked to perform 100 putts in a self-paced simulated putting task. We then compared the Fmθ power of each individual’s 15 best and worst putts. The results indicated that theta power in the frontal brain region significantly increased in both best and worst putts, compared with other midline regions. Moreover, the Fmθ power significantly decreased for the best putts compared with the worst putts. These findings suggest that Fmθ is a manifestation of sustained attention during a skilled performance and that optimal attentional engagement, as characterized by a lower Fmθ power, is beneficial for successful skilled performance rather than a higher Fmθ power reflecting excessive attentional control.

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Mark Wilson, Mark Chattington, Dilwyn E. Marple-Horvat and Nick C. Smith

This study examined attentional processes underlying skilled motor performance in threatening situations. Twenty-four trained participants performed a simulated rally driving task under conditions designed either to direct the focus of attention toward the explicit monitoring of driving or a distracting secondary task. Performance (lap time) was compared with a “driving only” control condition. Each condition was completed under nonevaluative and evaluative instructional sets designed to manipulate anxiety. Mental effort was indexed by self-report and dual-task performance measures. The results showed little change in performance in the high-threat explicit monitoring task condition, compared with either the low-threat or the high-threat distraction conditions. Mental effort increased, however, in all high- as opposed to low-threat conditions. Performance effectiveness was therefore maintained under threat although this was at the expense of reduced processing efficiency. The results provide stronger support for the predictions of processing efficiency theory than self-focus theories of choking.

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Leighton Jones, Costas I. Karageorghis and Panteleimon Ekkekakis

Theories suggest that external stimuli (e.g., auditory and visual) may be rendered ineffective in modulating attention when exercise intensity is high. We examined the effects of music and parkland video footage on psychological measures during and after stationary cycling at two intensities: 10% of maximal capacity below ventilatory threshold and 5% above. Participants (N = 34) were exposed to four conditions at each intensity: music only, video only, music and video, and control. Analyses revealed main effects of condition and exercise intensity for affective valence and perceived activation (p < .001), state attention (p < .05), and exercise enjoyment (p < .001). The music-only and music-and-video conditions led to the highest valence and enjoyment scores during and after exercise regardless of intensity. Findings indicate that attentional manipulations can exert a salient influence on affect and enjoyment even at intensities slightly above ventilatory threshold.

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Philip A. Furley and Daniel Memmert

The controlled attention theory of working memory capacity (WMC, Engle 2002) suggests that WMC represents a domain free limitation in the ability to control attention and is predictive of an individual’s capability of staying focused, avoiding distraction and impulsive errors. In the present paper we test the predictive power of WMC in computer-based sport decision-making tasks. Experiment 1 demonstrated that high-WMC athletes were better able at focusing their attention on tactical decision making while blocking out irrelevant auditory distraction. Experiment 2 showed that high-WMC athletes were more successful at adapting their tactical decision making according to the situation instead of relying on prepotent inappropriate decisions. The present results provide additional but also unique support for the controlled attention theory of WMC by demonstrating that WMC is predictive of controlling attention in complex settings among different modalities and highlight the importance of working memory in tactical decision making.

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Yi-An Chen, Yu-Chen Chung, Rachel Proffitt, Eric Wade and Carolee Winstein

Attention during exercise is known to affect performance; however, the attentional demand inherent to virtual reality (VR)-based exercise is not well understood. We used a dual-task paradigm to compare the attentional demands of VR-based and non-VR-based (conventional, real-world) exercise: 22 older adults (with no diagnosed disabilities) performed a primary reaching task to virtual and real targets in a counterbalanced block order while verbally responding to an unanticipated auditory tone in one third of the trials. The attentional demand of the primary reaching task was inferred from the voice response time (VRT) to the auditory tone. Participants’ engagement level and task experience were also obtained using questionnaires. The virtual target condition was more attention demanding (significantly longer VRT) than the real target condition. Secondary analyses revealed a significant interaction between engagement level and target condition on attentional demand. For participants who were highly engaged, attentional demand was high and independent of target condition. However, for those who were less engaged, attentional demand was low and depended on target condition (i.e., virtual > real). These findings add important knowledge to the growing body of research pertaining to the development and application of technology-enhanced exercise for older adults and for rehabilitation purposes.

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Alexandre Murian, Thibault Deschamps and Jean Jacques Temprado

The current study investigated the influence of resistance to motion and trial duration on the stability of bimanual coordination patterns and attentional demands. Seven participants performed in-phase and antiphase coordination patterns at a frequency of 1.5 Hz for 300 s. Resistance opposed to pronation–supination movements was manipulated. Attentional demands associated with the bimanual coordination patterns performance were measured using a probe reaction-time task. Results showed that variations in the level of resistance to motion, which induced corresponding variations in the amount of muscle activation during both the in-phase and the antiphase pattern, were associated with longer reaction time. Relative phase variability and attentional demands were higher for the antiphase pattern than for the in-phase pattern. Moreover, the attentional demands did not covary with the increase in the antiphase pattern over the trial duration. The in-phase pattern remained unaffected by resistance opposed to pronation–supination movement. The present findings and the time effect are discussed according to potential alterations localized in different sites at the cortical level.

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Florentino Huertas, Javier Zahonero, Daniel Sanabria and Juan Lupiáñez

The present study explored the effects of three different activity conditions on three attentional functions: alerting, orienting, and executive control. A group of highly experienced cyclists performed the Attention Network Test–Interactions (Callejas, Lupiáñez, & Tudela, 2004) at rest, during moderate aerobic exercise, and during intense aerobic exercise. Results indicated that aerobic exercise accelerated reaction time and reduced the alerting effect compared with the rest condition. However, aerobic exercise did not modulate the functioning of either the orienting or the executive control attentional networks. No differences in reaction time or attentional functioning were observed between the two aerobic exercise workloads. The present results suggest that moderate aerobic exercise modulates the functioning of phasic alertness by increasing the general state of tonic vigilance.