Attentional Style Variations and Athletic Ability: The Advantages of a Sports-specific Test

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Cognitive attentional processes in tennis players of varying skill levels were investigated. A tennis-specific version of Nideffer's Test of Attentional and Interpersonal Style (T-TAIS) was constructed using a rationale approach to test construction and compared with the parent TAIS. Tennis players (N=90) judged to be either beginning, intermediate, or advanced sewed as subjects. The T-TAIS had higher test-retest and internal consistency reliability coefficients, indicating it was a more accurate indicator of attentional style than the TAIS. Correlational and factor analysis data from the T-TAIS partially supported Nideffer's attentional dimension of bandwidth (narrow to broad attention) but did not support the direction dimension (internal to external). Instead, bandwidth was viewed as multidimensional, consisting of a scanning and focusing component. The T-TAIS showed a much more consistent relationship to tennis ability than the TAIS. This was particularly evident in the increments in the scanning factor subscale scores as a function of increases in tennis skill. T-TAIS subscale scores also were better predictors of match play than TAIS subscales. Results were consistent with current theories of attentional mechanisms and knowledge of skills required to play tennis. Data also indicated that sports-specific measures of attention are more precise estimates of attentional processes than is a general assessment instrument.

This article is based on a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a MA degree at the University of Cincinnati by the senior author under the supervision of Anthony F. Grasha. The authors would also like to thank Dr. John Steffen for sewing as a committee member. Reprint requests should be sent to Anthony F. Grasha, Department of Psychology, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, 429 Dyer Hall, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221.

Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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