Many research studies have shown the advantage of directing the focus of attention (FOA) externally as opposed to internally. However, it is not clear how the availability of concurrent visual feedback might impact attentional processes as the FOA is shifted between internal, external, relevant, and irrelevant sources of attention. The current experiment varied the FOA by asking the participants to judge joint angles (internal-relevant), respiration (internal-irrelevant), dart release angle (external-relevant), and tone loudness (external-irrelevant) at dart release in which task-intrinsic concurrent visual feedback was available or not. Spatial errors and trial-to-trial variability in the outcome were reduced when vision was available. Spatial errors were greater during internal judgments compared with external judgments particularly when vision was not available and when making judgments about task-relevant factors. A focus on irrelevant factors generally did not affect performance compared with relevant factors. These findings suggest that availability of concurrent visual feedback modulates focus of attention effects in motor control.
David Sherwood, Keith Lohse and Alice Healy
Christopher K. Rhea, Jed A. Diekfuss, Jeffrey T. Fairbrother and Louisa D. Raisbeck
; McNevin, Wulf, & Carlson, 2000 ; Wulf, 2013 ). Wulf, Höß, and Prinz ( 1998 ) defined attentional focus as either internal or external. An internal focus of attention is directed at the performer’s own body or own movements, whereas an external focus is directed at the effects a particular movement has on
Kevin A. Becker, Ayana F. Georges and Christopher A. Aiken
solution often suggested for this problem is utilizing an attentional focus that reduces the likelihood of conscious control. Over the last 20 years, most research in this area has studied the benefit of an external focus compared to an internal focus of attention. An internal focus of attention is
Antje Hill, Linda Schücker, Norbert Hagemann and Bernd Strauß
Attentional Focusing in Endurance Sports The direction of attentional focus is an essential determinant of performance among different kinds of sports (e.g., Wulf, 2013 ). In endurance sports, an external focus of attention can be defined as directing attention toward the environment. An internal
This study examined the effect of individually tailoring an external focus reference point in line with ability on standing long jump (SLJ) performance. Twenty-one female Division III hockey players (ages 18–23 years) performed two SLJs under 4 attentional focus conditions: (a) no focus provided (control), (b) focused on rapid knee extension (internal); (c) focused on jumping as close as possible to a cone placed at 3 m (external far), and (d) focused on jumping as far as possible past a cone placed, unbeknownst to them, at the maximum distance achieved on their last SLJ test, recorded during team testing at an earlier date (attainable). Findings were consistent with the literataure in that instructions that induced an external versus internal focus of attention resulted in significantly longer jumping distances. In addition, horizontal displacement was significantly longer when participants adopted an external focus of attention toward an attainable distance goal versus all other conditions. Results suggest that for goal-oriented movements that require maximum effort, individualizing the distance of an external focus of attention according to capability enhances its effect.
Jed A. Diekfuss and Louisa D. Raisbeck
An external focus of attention, as opposed to an internal focus of attention, has been shown to increase performance and enhance learning. However, little research has examined whether these findings have been integrated into collegiate coaching and adopted by student-athlete performers. The purpose of this study was to examine the verbal instructions and instructional feedback provided by NCAA division 1 collegiate coaches during practice and how it influenced student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Thirty-one student-athletes completed a questionnaire that inquired about coaches’ verbal instructions and instructional feedback during practice and student-athletes’ focus of attention during competition. Fifty percent of participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus their attention internally and only four participants reported that their coaches instructed them to focus externally. Our results also showed that coaches provided an equal amount of internal and external instructional feedback. During competition, however, the majority of participants reported statements that fell under the category of “winning and strategy.” These results suggest that the beneficial effects of an external focus of attention have not been integrated into NCAA division 1 collegiate coaching and the focus of attention adopted by student-athletes may be more complex than what is studied in laboratory research.
Jared Porter, Hubert Makaruk and Marcin Starzak
According to the constrained action hypothesis, an external focus of attention is beneficial for motor learning due to improvements in movement automization. In contrast, an internal focus of attention interferes with automaticity and decreases the effects of motor learning. This study was designed to test the automaticity assumption of the focus of attention effect within a highly skilled population. We examined the effects of attentional focus on kinematics in rope jumping and visual control. Participants practiced the rope-jumping task over five days of acquisition, which was followed by a retention and transfer test. The findings provided evidence that the learning of the task was improved and automaticity was increased by the external focus compared with the internal focus and no attentional (i.e., control condition) conditions. In addition, these findings indicate that visual attention as a function of attentional focus has a stronger relationship with practice performance rather than with motor learning effects.
Philipp Bennet Philippen and Babett H. Lobinger
The yips in golf is the interruption of a smooth putting movement by an involuntary jerk or freezing of the arm. Psychological factors seem to worsen the phenomenon. However, published data on how the yips in golf is cognitively and emotionally experienced are very limited. Moreover, the focus of attention in yips-affected golfers has not been investigated. Thus, we interviewed 17 yips-affected golfers to record the thoughts and feelings that are experienced in a situation in which the yips occurs. In addition, we asked them about their focus of attention right before putting. Content analysis revealed a negative cognitive and emotional pattern for all golfers. Furthermore, 11 participants reported focusing either internally or on possible mistakes. The results contribute to an understanding of the yips in golf and provide a starting point for further investigations into possible interventions for the yips.
Scott W. Ducharme and Will F.W. Wu
An external focus of attention has been shown to improve balance measures during static postural tasks. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of different attentional focus strategies in response to a perturbation while performing a dynamic balance task. Participants (n = 29) performed a dynamic balance task that consisted of stepping onto an uneven surface while attempting to continuously walk in a straight line. The orientation of the surface was unknown to the participants. During the external focus conditions, participants were instructed to focus on the surface they walked on. During the internal focus conditions, participants were instructed to focus on keeping their body over their feet. Analyses revealed that the external focus condition exhibited significantly less lateral displacement from the intended walking line following the perturbation (4.56 ± 2.56 cm) than the internal (5.61 ± 2.89 cm, p = .019) and baseline (6.07 ± 2.6 cm, p = .004) conditions. These data indicate that participants were more resilient to the perturbing surface when their attention was focused on external information. Thus, participants were able to respond to a perturbation more effectively when utilizing an external focus of attention.
Brooke Castaneda and Rob Gray
This study addressed the question, what should baseball players focus their attention on while batting? Less-skilled and highly skilled (college) baseball players participated in four dual-task conditions in a baseball batting simulation: two that directed attention to skill execution (skill/internal [movement of the hands] and skill/external [movement of the bat]) and two that directed attention to the environment (environmental/irrelevant [auditory tones] and environmental/external [the ball leaving the bat]). Batting performance for highly skilled players was best in the environmental/external condition and worst in the skill/internal condition. Performance of less-skilled batters was significantly better in the two skill conditions than in either of the two environmental conditions. We conclude that the optimal focus of attention for highly skilled batters is one that does not disrupt proceduralized knowledge and permits attention to the perceptual effect of the action, whereas the optimal focus of attention for less-skilled batters is one that allows attention to the step-by-step execution of the swing.