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Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years

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Abstract

Over the past 15 years, research on focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e., on the movement effect) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e., on body movements). This article provides a comprehensive review of the extant literature. Findings show that the performance and learning advantages through instructions or feedback inducing an external focus extend across different types of tasks, skill levels, and age groups. Benefits are seen in movement effectiveness (e.g., accuracy, consistency, balance) as well as efficiency (e.g., muscular activity, force production, cardiovascular responses). Methodological issues that have arisen in the literature are discussed. Finally, our current understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the attentional focus effect is outlined, and directions for future research are suggested.

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... Of these, 83 were included in the systematic review, and 61 studies were included into the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis was additionally split into the original categories, which included the instructions as mentioned in the paper, and the adapted classifications, for which the instructions were reclassified based on the definition by [Wulf, G. (2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years. ...
... Bobrownicki et al., 2019;Wulf & Prinz, 2001). A well-known approach to study this is the focus of attention model, introduced by Wulf et al. (1998), which has been used in numerous studies for over two decades (Wulf, 2013). The present state of research suggests that instructions using an external attentional focus (i.e. the attentional focus is directed to the intended movement effect) enhance immediate motor performance as well as long-term learning. ...
... The present state of research suggests that instructions using an external attentional focus (i.e. the attentional focus is directed to the intended movement effect) enhance immediate motor performance as well as long-term learning. This is in contrast to instructions using an internal attentional focus (i.e. the attentional focus is directed to the movement of body parts) or no instructed focus, regardless of the learner's skill level or the task demands (see Wulf, 2013;Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016 for review). ...
Article
Directing the attentional focus towards intended movement effects could enhance individual performance. This meta-analysis examines the immediate effects of an instructed external (proximal/distal) and internal attentional focus on an experimental group and a control group on their performance. A systematic review was done following the PRISMA guidelines. A total of 3833 reports were scanned. Of these, 83 were included in the systematic review, and 61 studies were included into the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis was additionally split into the original categories, which included the instructions as mentioned in the paper, and the adapted classifications, for which the instructions were reclassified based on the definition by [Wulf, G. (2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years. International Review of sport and Exercise psychology, 6(1), 77–104. doii:10.1080/1750984X.2012.723728 and McNevin, N. H., Shea, C. H., & Wulf, G. (2003). Increasing the distance of an external focus of attention enhances learning. Psychological Research, 67(1), 22–29. doii:10.1007/s00426-002-0093-6]. In line with the constrained-action hypothesis, an external attentional focus instruction enhanced the immediate performance compared to an internal attentional focus instruction (SMDadapted = 0.24) and the control group (SMDadapted SMD = 0.31). Also, consistent with the constrained-action hypothesis, distal external attentional focus instructions showed performance-enhancing effects compared to proximal external attentional focus instructions (SMDadapted = 0.23). However, most comparisons showed moderate to substantial heterogeneity and wide prediction intervals. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized for all tasks and skill levels.
... Attention that is directed towards the skill or task being performed has been termed an associative focus and it has been categorised into two broad types: internal and external (Wulf, 2013). An internal focus occurs when an athlete directs attentional resources inward towards the movement of the body or on bodily sensations. ...
... The constrained action hypothesis has been applied in efforts to improve performance in endurance tasks. Better performance under instructions to focus attention on external cues than on internal cues has been observed during treadmill running (Neumann & Piercy, 2013;Schücker et al., 2009;2013), swimming (Freudenheim et al., 2010), and rowing (Schücker et al., 2015). However, some differences in findings have emerged. ...
... For example, Brick et al. (2014) argued that a focus on technique was an example of active self-regulation and this may have facilitated the use of additional or more adaptive cognitive strategies in the internal condition of Neumann et al. (2020) than in the present experiment. In general, it may be the case that performance is better with an external focus when the study design constrains attention to a single cue or stimulus (e.g., Neumann & Piercy, 2013;Schücker et al., 2009;2013; whereas performance is better with an internal focus when attention is free to vary across a larger number of cues (e.g., Neumann et al. (2020)). ...
Article
Performance in skill-based and endurance sports can be enhanced when an individual directs attention toward internal or external cues. However, there might be advantages in attending to specific cues at different times during a continuous sport task. The present study examined the effects of switching attention between internal and external cues when rowing. Novice rowers (N = 27) completed three 2000m rows while focusing attention on internal cues only, external cues only, or switching between internal and external cues. Overall performance, as measured by time and power output, was best in the switching condition. Measurements of heart rate and perceived exertion were not significantly different between switching and external conditions, suggesting that these performance improvements occurred without producing significant subjective or objective physiologic change. However, a focus on external cues resulted in lower ratings of perceived exertion relative to a focus on internal cues. Self-reported motivation did not differ between conditions. Although instructions to focus internally or externally can influence performance on aerobic tasks, switching attention between these cues may enhance performance. Athletes should consider attending to various cues in rowing and, by extension, in other endurance sports.
... Another potential reason behind the improved motor and cognitive performance under dual-task settings can be attributed to the way in which the external focus of attention is employed during dual-task training (Wulf, 2013). Under dual-task conditions, due to simultaneously concentrating on primary and secondary tasks, individuals may automatically shift their attention to external cues. ...
... Under dual-task conditions, due to simultaneously concentrating on primary and secondary tasks, individuals may automatically shift their attention to external cues. A large body of the existing studies confirms that using external focus of attention results in a greater improvement in motor, and even cognitive, learning and functions, including working memory, compared to cases where internal focus of attention is used (Razaghi et al., 2020;Wulf, 2013). In this regard, Wulf et al. (2013) put forth the constrained action hypothesis, arguing that, while using external attention, individuals improve their motor learning and performance through facilitating automatic processes in their motor systems while in cases where the external focus of attention is employed, learners often disrupt these automatic processes, undermining their motor performances. ...
... A large body of the existing studies confirms that using external focus of attention results in a greater improvement in motor, and even cognitive, learning and functions, including working memory, compared to cases where internal focus of attention is used (Razaghi et al., 2020;Wulf, 2013). In this regard, Wulf et al. (2013) put forth the constrained action hypothesis, arguing that, while using external attention, individuals improve their motor learning and performance through facilitating automatic processes in their motor systems while in cases where the external focus of attention is employed, learners often disrupt these automatic processes, undermining their motor performances. It seems that in the present study, children in the single-task settings used internal attention more frequently than those training in the dual-task settings, and therefore they experienced a greater drop in their motor and cognitive performance compared to the dual-task groups. ...
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The present study aims to examine the effects of two dual-task training methods (motor-motor and cognitive-motor) as well as a single task method on static and dynamic balance and also working memory in children. Forty-five children (all male; mean age 8.82±0.83 years) were selected and randomly assigned into three experimental groups. In the pretest, posttest, and retention stages, the participants took static and dynamic balance tests as well as an n-back task. In the training stage, the participants practiced selected balance training tasks under dual-task motor-motor and motor-cognitive conditions as well as a single task over a period of four weeks at two sessions per week. The results of the paired t-test indicated that children in all groups improved their balance performance and working memory (p≤0.05). The results of ANCOVA showed that the balance training group under motor-motor dual-task conditions outperformed the other two groups in terms of the dynamic balance scores (p≤0.05). An improved performance was also observed for the cognitive-motor dual-task conditions compared to the single-task model (p≤0.01). In terms of static balance and working memory, both dual-task groups, regardless of the types of their tasks, outperformed the single-task group (p≤0.05).
... The result was similar to that reported by Ille et al. [18], who found that performers displayed more efficient sprint performance when focusing on exploding from the starting blocks (EF) compared with focusing on pushing quickly with their legs (IF). In addition, relevant reviews show that the EF advantage is not only embodied in sprint tasks but also robust in other sports tasks (e.g., soccer, golf, and swimming); for reviews, see [20][21][22]. Moreover, one recent meta-analysis [23] suggests an EF exceeds IF in motor performance with a small effect size (Hedges' g = 0.264). ...
... In the research field of attentional focus, there is some dispute about whether skill level interacts with the attentional focus effect. Some studies indicate that the benefits of EF instructions have generalizability and show no dependency on skill [20], but other studies have shown that novices in the early phases of skill acquisition benefit less than experts because it is difficult for novices to shift their attentional focus from focusing internally on the correct execution of skills to focusing externally on the coordination of movements [27,28]. This issue set us thinking about whether skill level mediates the attentional focus effect on sprint performance, which is probably the most fundamental movement skill. ...
... Consequently, IF generated worse outcomes than EF. Over the past two decades or more, myriad studies have lent support to this hypothesis and have revealed the generalizability of EF's benefits, as shown over a broad range of motor tasks (e.g., balance, dart throwing, soccer, ballet, golf, running, swimming, and jumping), populations (at various skill levels, ages, and disabilities), and performance measures (movement accuracy, movement form and movement efficiency); for reviews, see [20][21][22]. ...
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Sprinting is often seen in a variety of sports. Focusing one’s attention externally before sprinting has been demonstrated to boost sprint performance. The present study aimed to systematically review previous findings on the impact of external focus (EF), in comparison to internal focus (IF), on sprint performance. A literature search was conducted in five electronic databases (APA PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science). A random-effects model was used to pool Hedge’s g with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The meta-analysis included six studies with a total of 10 effect sizes and 166 participants. In general, the EF condition outperformed the IF condition in sprint performance (g = 0.279, 95% CI [0.088, 0.470], p = 0.004). The subgroup analysis, which should be viewed with caution, suggested that the benefits associated with the EF strategy were significant in low-skill sprinters (g = 0.337, 95% CI [0.032, 0.642], p = 0.030) but not significant in high-skill sprinters (g = 0.246, 95% CI [−0.042, 0.533], p = 0.094), although no significant difference was seen between these subgroups (p = 0.670). The reported gain in sprint performance due to attentional focus has practical implications for coaches and athletes, as making tiny adjustments in verbal instructions can lead to significant behavioral effects of great importance in competitive sports.
... During explicit learning, coaches and teachers often focus on technical aspects (body movements) and concentration on a learner's body parts and motions, unknowingly using internal attention instructions to teach skills. A large body of studies has shown that applying internal attention instructions can lower the level of performance and motor learning [37]. In the present study, the participants in the explicit instructions group were asked to "stand with their feet together, look at the hoop, use their dominant hand to carry the ball and their non-dominant hand to support the ball from below, move the ball upward, and release it once their arm was in the upright position". ...
... In the present study, the participants in the explicit instructions group were asked to "stand with their feet together, look at the hoop, use their dominant hand to carry the ball and their non-dominant hand to support the ball from below, move the ball upward, and release it once their arm was in the upright position". Such instructions seem to focus on internal aspects of attention, thereby deteriorating motor learning and performance [37]. However, studies have also indicated that in the analogy learning style, the learner's attention shifted away from his/her body parts toward an external focus of attention [22]. ...
... It is important to note, however, that the verbal analogy group had performance similar to that of the explicit learning group while underperforming compared to the visual analogy group. The instructions provided to the individuals in the verbal analogy group to imagine a child picking a cookie from a jar on the table probably got them to focus their attention on parts of their bodies, e.g., their hands, while performing a throw (internal attention), causing diminished free-throw performance in children because of detrimental effects on automatic motor control processes [37]. On the other hand, this number of instructions, however small it was, negatively influenced children's working memory, as reflected to some extent in their working memory scores. ...
Article
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Introduction. Physical education teachers and coaches often face the problem of how to convey information to novice learners, particularly to children. The present study aims to examine how visual and verbal analogy learning affects basketball free-throw learning as well as working memory in 9- to 12-year-old children. Material and methods. Forty-eight children (24 males, mean age: 10.5±1.8 years) were selected through convenience sampling and randomly assigned to four groups, namely visual analogy, verbal analogy, explicit, and control group. The task involved throwing a basketball from a distance of 3.05 meters. The participants completed 15 trials in the pre-test, post-test, and retention phases and 720 trials in the acquisition phase. Results. The result of a mixed ANOVA showed that the visual analogy, verbal analogy, and explicit learning groups experienced a significant improvement in their performance through the skill acquisition phase as well as an improvement in their working memories (p≤0.05) while the control group did not exhibit such improvements (p=0.99). In addition, the results also showed that the analogy learning group outperformed other groups in both post-test and retention tests as well as in terms of motor learning. The analogy group was also better than the control group in terms of working memory (p≤0.05). Conclusions. The findings of this study suggest that coaches in instructional environments should make further use of the advantages of visual analogy learning for children.
... This has implications for coaches and athletes, physical and occupational therapists and clients, and movement-focused clinicians and patients, and anyone else attempting to improve performance. An external focus of attention is beneficial to a diverse variety of tasks with performance enhancements revealed through increased movement effectiveness (balance and accuracy), movement efficiency (muscular activity, maximum force production, speed, endurance, and coordination), or both (refer to tables 1 and 2 in Wulf, 2013). ...
... A potential challenge to manipulating the focus of attention in Donders' subtraction method is that button-pressing tasks have low movement complexity, especially compared to the movement complexity of tasks in focus of attention research like balancing on a stability platform, golfing, or dart throwing (Wulf, 2013). For balance tasks, it has been shown that they must be sufficiently complex before there is a performance advantage with an external focus of attention (Becker & Smith, 2013;Landers et al., 2005;Wulf et al., 2007). ...
Article
The goal of the current study was to measure the processing demands on the stages of information processing with internal and external foci of attention. Participants completed simple and two-choice reaction time tasks with internal and external foci of attention. Donders' subtraction method was used to isolate the cumulative duration of stages unique to simple and choice reaction time tasks. Mean reaction time was comparable with internal and external foci of attention in simple and two-choice reaction time tasks. These results suggest that processing demands were comparable with internal and external foci of attention. We hypothesize that there was not a processing advantage for an external focus in simple reaction time because the required movements had low movement complexity.
... More irregular COP fluctuations (as indexed by an increase in sample entropy) may be interpreted as an increase in the efficiency or 'automaticity.' It is consistent with the 'constrained action hypothesis' proposed by Wulf [30], which demonstrates the presence of automatic motor control processes when attention is withdrawn from controlling one's balance. The attention can be experimentally diverted from posture when attentional focus is directed to the effects of one's movement in the environment (external focus-EF) as compared to when one's focus is directed to body movements (internal focus-IF). ...
... The attention can be experimentally diverted from posture when attentional focus is directed to the effects of one's movement in the environment (external focus-EF) as compared to when one's focus is directed to body movements (internal focus-IF). Research has shown that EF is more beneficial for motor performance and learning (including balance) relative to IF [30]. EF facilitates movement efficiency by promoting movement organization at a more automatic level, while IF involves a more conscious control of effectors and consequently disrupts the automaticity of coordination processes. ...
Article
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Balance can be a main factor contributing to success in many disciplines, and biathlon is a representative example. A more stable posture may be a key factor for shooting scores. The center of foot pressure (COP) is commonly recorded when evaluating postural control. As COP measurements are highly irregular and non-stationary, non-linear deterministic methods, such as entropy, are more appropriate for the analysis of COP displacement. The aim of our study was to investigate whether the longitudinal effects of biathlon training can elicit specific changes in postural control. Eight national-level biathletes, 15 non-athletes who prior to the experiment took part in 3 months of shooting training, and 15 non-athletes with no prior rifle shooting experience took part in our study. The data was collected with the use of a force plate. Participants performed three balance tasks in quiet standing, the shooting position (internal focus–participants concentrated on maintaining the correct body position and rifle), and aiming at the target (external focus–participants concentrated on keeping the laser beam centered on the targets). Biathletes obtained significantly lower values of sample entropy compared to the other groups during the shooting and aiming at the target trials (p
... Anxiety, perfectionism, and phobias are closely associated with maladaptive cognitive strategies, such as overfocusing and reinvestment, which were also suggested as triggering factors , and are known to interfere with the execution of motor movements in various settings (Wulf, 2013), including music performance (Duke et al., 2011;Mornell and Wulf, 2019). It is plausible that these characteristics informed the practice behaviours of the musicians, prompting overinvolvement in the task, to the level of motor fatigue and overuse injuries, which can be initial indicators of the onset as well . ...
... The fact that the average starting age in the sample was 12.20 years, and the literature reported similar findings across several samples of musicians with MFD (Schmidt et al., 2013;Altenmüller et al., 2014) suggests that musicians who later developed MFD employed a more explicit strategy, and more internal focus when acquiring the skill. While the literature clearly shows the superiority of implicit learning or external focus (Wulf, 2013) providing evidence that learning with an external focus enhances efficiency (Zachry et al., 2005), effectiveness (Wulf and Lewthwaite, 2010), technical precision, and musical expressivity in music performance (Mornell and Wulf, 2019), the findings regarding the attention of focus in the early stages of learning have been so far inconclusive (Stambaugh, 2017). It has been hypothesised that children with high motor ability benefit from explicit learning (Maxwell et al., 2017), therefore, it is possible that a more explicit strategy provided an asset in the early years of education, helping these young musicians to improve quickly, even if the strategy is not advantageous long-term, especially after the basics of the skill are acquired. ...
Article
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Musicians’ Focal Dystonia (MFD) is a task-specific neurological movement disorder, affecting 1–2% of highly skilled musicians. The condition can impair motor function by creating involuntary movements, predominantly in the upper extremities or the embouchure. The pathophysiology of the disorder is not fully understood, and complete recovery is extremely rare. While most of the literature views the condition through a neurological lens, a handful of recent studies point out certain psychological traits and the presence of adverse playing-related experiences and preceding trauma as possible contributors to the onset. The nature and the frequency of these factors, however, are under-researched. The present quasi-experimental study aimed to compare musicians with and without MFD in terms of the frequency of various adverse psychosocial and psychological factors to explore their contribution to the onset of the condition. Professional musicians with MFD (n = 107) and without MFD (n = 68) were recruited from online platforms, musicians’ unions, and organisations to fill out a survey. The survey was based on two previously conducted interview studies and included the Student-Instructor Relationship Scale (SIRS), the Mistake Rumination Scale (MRS), the Trauma History Screen, and self-constructed questions about the received music education, early success, and personal experiences. To identify potential risk factors, independent samples t-tests were conducted and found that there are significant differences in musicians with and without MFD in terms of mistake rumination, early success, and the received music education. A logistic regression showed that six factors contributed to the construct to various extents; we observed a significant model [χ2(80) = 22.681, p < 0.001], which predicted 71.2% of the cases correctly. This exploratory study shows that psychological and psychosocial factors might play a role in the development of MFD. Understanding these in more detail could inform preventative strategies and complement the current therapeutic approaches to support this vulnerable population better.
... Anxiety-provoking situations can cause attention to be internally shifted to focus on movement execution, which can disrupt the coordination of automatic processes and lead to choking. Expert athletes with automatized skills tend to perform best with an external focus although novice athletes often benefit from using an internal focus to pay attention to movement execution (Wulf, 2013). ...
... Superior athletic performance is empirically associated with various self-regulation processes and skills (Bartulovic et al., 2017;Gardner & Moore, 2007;Toering et al., 2009). The self-regulation component of the GMP-SP encompasses self-awareness to effectively recognize and adapt to changing conditions (Chow & Luzzeri, 2019;Ravizza & Fifer, 2015), stress management to efficiently deal with expected and unexpected stressors (Dugdale et al., 2002;Neil et al., 2011), attentional control to correctly execute tasks and improve motor performance (Wulf, 2013), as well as emotion and arousal regulation to manage emotional and physiological responses and prevent choking under pressure (Dupee et al., 2016;Ruiz et al., 2017). ...
... Response-generated feedbacks (or response-produced feedbacks) consist in providing a cue immediately following a motor response, as when the motor response automatically produces the feedback (Grindle & Remington, 2005;Paull, 1998). Studies on response-generated feedback, pointing to a link between response-generated feedback and motor performance, are in line with the ''constrained action hypothesis" (McKay & Wulf, 2012;Wulf & Prinz, 2001; for a review see Wulf (2013)). According to this view, the focus of attention on the movement might impact the unconscious and automatic processes controlling actions and, therefore, making them more conscious and voluntary. ...
... Results of the present study confirm current literature on the effects of external factors as response-generated feedback on performance (e.g., Wulf & Prinz, 2001; for a review see Wulf (2013)), showing that the introduction of feedback in a complex visuomotor discriminative task improved response accuracy while unaffecting response speed and consistency. At the electrophysiological level, in the pre-stimulus phase, the presence of feedback increased the pN and the early BP and anticipated the BP onset. ...
Article
Receiving feedback on action correctness is a relevant factor in learning, but only a few recent studies have investigated the neural bases involved in feedback processing and its consequences on performance. Several event-related potentials (ERP) studies investigated the feedback-related negativity, which is an ERP occurring after the presentation of a feedback stimulus. In contrast, the present study investigates the effect of providing feedback on brain activities before and after the presentation of an imperative stimulus with the aim to show how this could have an impact on cognitive functions related to anticipatory and post-stimulus task processing. Participants performed a standard visuomotor task and a modified version of the same task in which feedback sounds were emitted when participants committed performance errors. Overall, results showed that in the feedback task subjects have better cognitive control than in the standard task. All behavioral measures were improved in the feedback task. At the brain level, all the studied components were modulated by the presence of the feedback cue. Results pointed to a possible increase of anticipatory activity in the prefrontal cortex, a reduction of perceptual awareness in areas previously associated with the anterior insular cortex, and an increase of activity associated with selective attention in sensory cortices.
... Focus of attention while performing a motor skill is a determinant component which directed by instruction or feedback that performer receives (Wulf, 2013). The direction could be internal Specifically, focusing on body or executive limbs, -adopting an external focus (In.F)-, while performing a motor skill has been found to be relatively ineffective. ...
... The direction could be internal Specifically, focusing on body or executive limbs, -adopting an external focus (In.F)-, while performing a motor skill has been found to be relatively ineffective. contrariwise, focusing on the movement's effects on the environment, has been verified to result in more effective performance and learning (Wulf, 2007(Wulf, , 2013. For example, external focus (Ex.F), has been found to enhance the performance in dart throw ( ...
Article
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Background: Examining effects of attention on motor performance at the neurophysiological level, considering the skill level, seems there are still ambiguities. Objective: The purpose of the present study was to examine the neurophysiological effect of Attentional Focus on in postural task as a function of skill level. The performance (postural sways) and muscular activity changes was recorded shift concurrently in two attentional conditions. Method: 20 gymnasts (19-26 Years old) participated and assigned to groups of skilled (10 years' experience) and novices (3-5 years history of training in Gymnastics). All participant of both groups performed ten trails of semi-dynamic balance (10 seconds) in tow conditions of internal and external focus in a counterbalanced order. Postural sways were measured using Biodex Stabilometer and Electromyography (EMG) signals of Tibalis Anterior and Soleus muscles recorded using ME6000 device. Data where data were analyzed using 2×2 mixed ANOVA. Results: Results showed higher performance (less postural sways) and reduced EMG under external focus condition for novices and lower EMG activity for experts. Conclusion: Research findings (enhanced performance and reduced EMG) support Constraint action hypothesis. Focus of attention can have profound effects on motor behavior and the underlying neurophysiologic factors regardless of skill level but in behavioral level of analyze it effects depended on expertise.
... In this way, the nature of the information conveyed is more relevant than the medium of conveyance, as different methods can be used to convey the same information (e.g., video vs demonstration) (Newell, 1996). It was emphasized, nevertheless, that movement forms should not be imposed-particularly as this tends to promote an internal focus of attention (Wulf, 2013) that typically does not beget improved learning or performance-instead, learners should be guided toward the most appropriated perception-action coupling (i.e., macroscopic variable specifying the form of the perceptual motor workspace). ...
... On the one hand, there is evidence that variability is beneficial to learning (Sch€ ollhorn et al., 2009), presumably, this is because more of the task space is explored allowing perception of salient features of task constraints (Riccio, 1993). On the other hand, providing instructions has the potential to guide or attune the learner to information specifying the salient task properties (Newell & Ranganathan, 2010;Wulf, 2013;Wulf et al., 1999). Arguably, in this case, increased variability should not be needed to provide information about those relevant task properties as the learner is already attuned to them. ...
Article
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Movement variability has been postulated to afford perception of the perceptual motor workspace and to be directly linked to improved performance. Here, we investigated how instructions mediate the search process and the relation between performance outcome and movement variability. We used a novel bimanual force tracking task where zero error was achieved via proportional output between the hands. Participants were either instructed or not as to how to coordinate their force output to achieve this goal, but the goal to minimize error was explained to all participants. The provision of instructions restricted the overall area of the task space that was searched. Moreover, the time dependent properties of the search were influenced; where instructions increased the likelihood that participants would produce a higher force level over practice. Multiple regression revealed that variability was positively correlated with performance outcome, but the strength of this relation was dependent on instructions and individual search strategies. The findings are consistent with the view that information through instructions shapes individual emergent perceptual-motor search strategies that in turn mediate how movement variability relates to performance outcome.
... One of the most common practice manipulations over the last few decades has been that of attentional focus. Research has consistently shown a benefit for the adoption of an external focus (EF) 1,3 . EF is when attention is directed to the effects of the movement on the environment, which leads to more of an outcome-based focus. ...
... It has been suggested that the adoption of an IF disrupts automatic processing of motor skills, whereas EF promotes the automatic or natural control of motor commands 4,5 . The majority of the research on attentional focus has been done with novice individuals learning a new task 3 . Research needs to further investigate how attentional focus is currently being used by coaches working with experienced athletes. ...
Article
BACKGROUND: Previous research in motor learning shows that adopting an external focus of attention significantly benefits performance and learning among novice participants. Research has been fairly limited in regards to the attentional focus reported to be used by highly skilled performers or coaches. Fairbrother et al. (2016) suggested that experts might utilize more complex attentional strategies than a simple dyad of internal or external foci. AIM: The purpose of the present study was to examine attentional focus cues utilized by elite track and field throws coaches during practice and competition. METHOD: Fifteen NCAA track and field coaches completed a questionnaire related the instructions they provide their athletes during practice. Meaning units that related to attentional focus were extracted from the questionnaires and categorized into associative and dissociative cues. The cues were then categorized for various attentional focus strategies. RESULTS: Results showed that elite coaches utilized multiple attentional focus strategies which included internal, external, and holistic focus cues. The most common attentional focus utilized with collegiate throwers was that of a holistic focus, which directs attention to the general feeling of the movement (Becker et al. 2019). It was observed that elite throws coaches alter their focus of attention instruction based on their unique style of coaching and the perceived needs of the athlete. CONCLUSION: This research shows that attentional focus is not as simple as adopting one focus strategy for all individuals within all contexts.
... in a larger improvement in balance than the exercise training using a stable surface. There are several possible reasons that might explain these results. Research on the focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e. foam) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e. on body movements).Wulf et al. (2013) showed that the performance and learning advantages through instructions or feedback inducing an external focus extend across different types of tasks, skill levels, and age groups. Benefits are seen in movement effectiveness (e.g. accuracy, consistency, balance) as well as efficiency (e.g. muscular activity, force production, cardiovas ...
... muscular activity, force production, cardiovascular responses). Therefore, the external focus (foam) could result in a larger improvement of balance in the exercise training group which used an unstable surface as compared to the exercise training group using a stable surface(Kramer et al., 2014;Wulf, G., 2013). Furthermore,Behm et al. (2003) showed that the activation of trunk stabilizers was significantly greater with the unstable surfaces. ...
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The sports and culture sectors play a significant role in generating better values for the society. Olympic Heritage belongs to cultural values, especially in countries where the Olympic Games took place. Over three decades ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was a leader in promoting Olympic values during the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. Through questionnaires addressed to the sports federations that are members of the Olympic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina (over 30 sports organizations), this paper was used to inspect the value and direction of the cultural dimension related to the Olympic Heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through the Likert scale consisting of 13 items which were used, important values and the potential development of cultural activities within the Olympic Movement were used and considered in order to provide recommendations for promoting the country’s cultural values in the future. The significance of differences and examinations was determined using the chi-square test (x2). Considering the fact that there is little research on the topic, the authors approach the work by highlighting the elements of culture that are closely connected with the importance of preserving the Olympic Heritage, as well as promotion of culture through sport in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the future, universities, together with the Olympic Committee and NGOs, could offer new cultural platforms emphasising the Olympic values by spreading awareness and educating the youth through sport and culture. The research results may also be applicable to the Sports Development Strategy of BiH. Keywords: Olympic values, Olympic Heritage, cultural activities, cultural awareness, cultural impact.
... Directing individuals' attention externally to the effects of movement on the environment (e.g., 'focus on keeping the board level with the floor' in a balance task) in contrast to directing attention internally to bodily movements (e.g., 'focus on keeping your feet level with the floor') has generally been shown to enhance performance and motor learning (Hitchcock & Sherwood, 2018;Lohse et al., 2010;2014;Marchant et al., 2007;Wulf et al., 1998). This superior effect of using an external versus internal focus has been replicated in numerous tasks (see Wulf, 2013 for a review). The constrained action hypothesis (McNevin et al., 2003;Wulf, McNevin et al., 2001;Wulf, Shea et al., 2001) has been used to explain this phenomenon; it proposes that an internal focus disrupts an automatic mode of processing while an external focus promotes unconscious processing that promotes self-organization of the motor system. ...
... While numerous investigations have shown an advantage of external over internal focus (Wulf, 2013), we understand little regarding the relationship between external focus and 'do your best' conditions or regarding the relationship between internal focus and 'do your best' conditions. Some research has shown external focus to result in superior performance to 'do your best' condition (e.g., Halperin et al., 2017;Makaruk et al., 2013;Porter and Sims, 2013), whereas other studies have found no differences between external focus and 'do your best' instructions (Marchant et al., 2007;Stoate & Wulf, 2011;Winkelman et al., 2017). ...
Article
External focus (attention to the movement effect) has been found effective in motor performance and learning. However, while some investigators have suggested that the effect of attentional focus varies with task difficulty, others reported external focus benefits regardless of difficulty. We hypothesized that attentional focus effects would vary with practice, due to changes in the individual’s processing efficiency. We had three 20-person participant groups (external focus instructions, internal focus instructions, control) practice three difficulty levels of a Fitts reciprocal tapping task over two days. Participants in the external/internal focus groups were instructed to “mentally focus on moving the pen/your hand as fast and accurately as possible,” while control participants were instructed to “mentally focus only on doing your best to achieve the task goal.” We then analyzed the effect of attentional focus by task difficulty at the initial performance (the beginning of the practice) and after learning (the retention/transfer phase), using movement time (MT) and number of error taps (Err) as performance measures. The internal focus group made more errors than the control group only at the retention/transfer phase. We found no error differences between the external and internal focus groups, and there were no MT differences between any groups. Our primary hypothesis about the differential effect of attentional focus by practice was supported. The attentional focus effect on Err differed in the retention/transfer phase from the immediate phase, suggesting that practice mediated the attentional focus effect. We discuss how information theory may supplement understanding of attentional focus interventions in motor skill acquisition.
... [30,37]) that auditory feedback reduces motor variability. Another interesting aspect is related to attentional focus [86]. Research on focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e. on the movement effect) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e. on body movements). ...
... On the other hand, musicians tend to focus on the sound and are motivated to perfect it by perfecting their movements. This is related to the notion of attentional focus [86]: research on focus of attention has consistently demonstrated that an external focus (i.e., on the movement effect, here the auditory feedback) enhances motor performance and learning relative to an internal focus (i.e., on the gestures themselves). Interestingly enough, this effect seems to be also interlaced with gestures themselves as well as the sound design: musicians and non-musicians perform equally well for gesture 2 regardless of auditory feedback. ...
Article
With the increasing interest in movement sonification and expressive gesture-based interaction, it is important to understand which factors contribute to movement learning and how. We explore the effects of movement sonification and users’ musical background on motor variability in complex gesture learning. We contribute an empirical study in which musicians and non-musicians learn two gesture sequences over three days, with and without movement sonification. Results show the interlaced interaction effects of these factors and how they unfold in the three-day learning process. For gesture 1, which is fast and dynamic with a direct “action-sound” sonification, movement sonification induces higher variability for both musicians and non-musicians on day 1. While musicians reduce this variability to a similar level as no auditory feedback condition on day 2 and day 3, non-musicians remain to have significantly higher variability. Across three days, musicians also have significantly lower variability than non-musicians. For gesture 2, which is slow and smooth with an “action-music” metaphor, there are virtually no effects. Based on these findings, we recommend future studies to take into account participants’ musical background, consider longitudinal study to examine these effects on complex gestures, and use awareness when interpreting the results given a specific design of gesture and sound.
... For many of those who are interested in the effects of focus of attention on skilled motor behavior, there is little or no doubt that adopting an external focus of attention (i.e., to movement effects), is a beneficial attentional strategy-compared with an internal focus (i.e., to body parts and body movements). This conclusion mainly comes from extensive experimental studies that have investigated the issue for about 24 years using different populations (e.g., typical and atypical individuals, children, young and older adults, males and females, athletes and non-athletes, novices and experts), and motor tasks (e.g., fine vs gross or open vs closed skills motor task) (Wulf, 2007(Wulf, , 2013(Wulf, , 2016. The constrained action hypothesis (CAH) provides theoretical explanation for these findings as it theorizes that an external focus promotes movement automaticity while an IF disrupts automatic processing (Wulf, Shea, & Park, 2001). ...
... Some research has supported the idea that focused attention is most beneficial when it's directed externally as compared to internally. Indeed, Wulf's (2013) review found that an external focus of attention was more beneficial across a number of tasks including speed, endurance, and accuracy types of tasks than an internal focus of attention. Ways to train and improve concentration skills include using simulations, predetermined cues, establishing good habits, routines, and competition plans, and overlearning skills (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). ...
... Over the course of the last two decades attentional focus has become one of the most widely studied effects in the motor learning and performance literature. Results of these investigations have been overwhelmingly consistent in demonstrating the benefit of an external focus over an internal focus in learning and the performance of a variety of tasks (see Wulf, 2013 for a review). This research has typically employed an experimental approach either assigning groups of individuals to learn while using either an internal or external focus (e.g. ...
Article
Research with athletes and coaches has found that attentional focus strategies are more complex than using an internal or external focus exclusively. Recently Becker et al. (2020) found that switching attentional focus from internal in movement preparation to external during movement execution provided a benefit over internal focus and control conditions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of attentional switching on motor skill acquisition. 79 participants were randomly divided into an internal (INT), external (EXT), or switching group (IES). Individuals performed 80 acquisition trials of a golf chipping task with their prescribed attentional focus during preparation and execution. 24-hours later 10-trial retention and transfer tests were performed. The primary analysis revealed significant improvement during acquisition (p < .001) but no significant differences between attentional focus groups during acquisition, retention, or transfer. A secondary analysis was performed with individuals low in attentional focus adherence removed (<60%). Groups significantly improved during acquisition (p < .001). For retention IES significantly outperformed INT (p < .05). These results suggest that the detrimental effects of an internal focus are only found during skill execution and not movement preparation. It is possible for learners to benefit from both an internal and external focus so long as the cues are provided during the correct phase of skill performance.
... The early research of Morgan, Pollock (1977) and Gill and Storm (1985) suggested that the dissociative strategy can facilitate endurance performance (6,7). More recent findings have proposed that the dissociative strategy optimizes muscle endurance (7,8,9). Nevertheless, these findings were in disagreement with those of Connolly and Janelle (2003) ...
Article
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Type of attentional focus on the physiological and psychological state of people can be effective running time. Although the role of external attention approaches informing optimal movement has been approved several times, the role of associative and dissociative factors with movement has not been known in the case of manipulating the different tasks and individual constraints. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the role of associative and dissociative attentional focus with internal and external dimensions on the running economy of beginners. Twelve beginner women (18-30 years old) ran on the treadmill. To measure the Vmax of participants, the starting speed was set at 6 km/h and increased to 2 km/h per minute. The process continued until voluntary fatigue. The speed used in each of the five test conditions (internal associative, external associative, internal dissociative, external dissociative, control) was 70% of each subject's maximum speed. The results of repeated-measure ANOVA revealed that associative attentional focus with internal/external dimension resulted in higher oxygen consumption and blood lactate, which caused a lower running economy in beginners. The results of internal/external dissociative attention indicated lower consumption of oxygen and less amount of blood lactate (higher economy). Based on the results of the current study, dissociative attention is the most economical method for running in beginners.
... However, the effect of attentional focus as a function of skill level still needs to be investigated since the benefits of external focus is ubiquitous and is generally evident immediately after receiving attentional focus instructions. 5,6 It is noted that while comparing the results of studies that were conducted in different populations or tasks may be appropriate for the purpose of generalizing findings, this approach may not be suitable for theoretical development because many factors affect the results beyond the skill level and attentional focus. Future studies should be directed to identifying the factors affecting the delay of the attentional focus effects so practitioners can understand and choose the optimal instruction based on the learners' experience. ...
Article
External focus (attention directed to an intended effect) has been shown to improve motor performance compared to internal focus (attention directed to body movements). Recently, holistic attention (attention directed to the overall feeling) has been discussed as an effective alternative. We hypothesized that a less specific cue (e.g. holistic attention) may be more effective than an external focus in experienced individuals. Therefore, the present study examined the effect of external focus, internal focus, and holistic attention on 14 experienced children-athletes (M age , 14.35 ± 1.98 years; M height , 171.28 ± 9.53 cm; M weight , 58.28 ± 10.28 kg) and 14 novice children (M age , 14.21± 1.92 years; M height , 170.92 ± 12.40 cm; M weight , 62.14 ± 15.62 kg). Participants completed a 16-meter front crawl swimming task with assigned instructions for three trials per condition. The results showed main effects of skill level (p < 0.001), condition (p = 0.006), and the skill level/condition interaction (p = 0.003). Post hoc tests revealed that external focus was superior to internal focus (p < 0.001), with no difference between holistic attention and internal focus (p = 0.158) or holistic attention and external focus (p = 0.05) in the experienced athletes, while none of the conditions were different in novices. The benefits of attentional focus may be influenced by the level of experience.
... Supporting this idea, several studies have reported that conditions that limit the degree to 32 which older adults consciously process their balance may promote greater postural stability 33 (Chiviacowsky et al., 2010;Polskaia et al., 2015). These effects are in line with those of 34 numerous studies in healthy young (sports) populations, which have consistently found 35 conscious movement processing (CMP) to result in suboptimal motor performance in a range 36 of different motor tasks (Masters & Maxwell, 2008;Wulf, 2013). Typically, these findings 37 are interpreted as conscious processes 'constraining', and thus interfering in, automatic 38 lower-level processes through which well-learned movement is typically regulated (Kal,39 Houdijk, & van der Kamp, 2013; Wulf, McNevin, & Shea, 2001). ...
Article
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Older adults rely increasingly on conscious processes to control balance. While this could be in response to age-related declines in balance capacity, it is unclear whether such strategy is adaptive or not. We investigated whether balance capacity modified the effects of conscious movement processing (CMP) on postural control in older adults. Forty-seven older adults (Mage=74.8, range=61-88) completed 60-second, narrow-stance balance trials on a force platform, under conditions designed to increase (high-CMP; through movement-monitoring instructions) or reduce conscious processing (low-CMP; distraction task). Balance capacity was operationalised as a composite score of Berg Balance Scale and Timed-up-and-Go. Balance capacity influenced the effects of the CMP manipulation on mediolateral sway amplitude (p=.023). Specifically, it positively associated with sway amplitude during the high-CMP condition (β=0.273), but not low-CMP condition (β=-0.060). In other words, higher balance capacity was associated with increased sway during high-CMP, confirming our hypothesis that CMP does not uniformly negatively impact balance performance. Rather, CMP was maladaptive for those with better balance. Results also indicated that older adults’ balance capacity influenced the degree to which they could engage conscious or automatic postural control processes. Specifically, we found that, overall, participants showed reduced mediolateral sway frequency and complexity for the high-CMP vs. low-CMP condition (p’s≤.018), indicating reduced automaticity of balance (as expected). However, these effects were significantly attenuated as balance capacity reduced (i.e., smaller changes in those with lower balance capacity, p’s<.01). Hence, the ability to readily shift between conscious and automatic modes of postural control seems more constrained as balance becomes worse. Overall, these findings suggest clinicians need to consider older adults’ balance capacity when using providing instructions or feedback likely to influence CMP within rehabilitation settings.
... An external focus on the intended effects of skill execution augments performance and learning (Wulf, 2013). External focus is when the learner maintains a focus on the task goal (rather than conflicting goals or distractions) and reduces as much as possible self-focus or other off-task activity, facilitating goal-action coupling and automaticity (review, Wulf & Lewthwaite, 2016). ...
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This article addresses this concern by outlining a theoretical framework for constraints of effective transfer from cognitive training: the skill-based latent variable intervention (LVI) framework. This framework builds on traditional psychometric factor analytic accounts of intelligence. Key concepts in this psychometric approach will now be briefly reviewed.
... Based on our prior study (Wong et al., 2019), we reasoned that it should be possible to use instructions to set this context. Indeed, across a variety of motor activities, task instructions have been shown to strongly modulate where individuals focus their attention during a task, consequently affecting task success (for reviews, see (Wulf, 2007;Wulf, 2013) (for a similar effect in stroke patients, see Kantak, Tessa, & William, 2020). In these studies, instructions to focus on internal features such as how an individual's body is moving (e.g., arm postures during a tennis swing) interestingly tend to result in worse performance compared to instructions directing focus toward external features associated with how the environment is affected by the movement (e.g., the motion of the racket and ball). ...
Article
Imitation is a significant daily activity involved in social interaction and motor learning. Imitation has been theorized to be performed in at least two ways. In posture-based imitation, individuals reproduce how the body should look and feel, and are sensitive to the relative positioning of body parts. In trajectory imitation, individuals mimic the spatiotemporal motion path of the end effector. There are clear anecdotal situations in which one might benefit from imitating postures (when learning ballet) or trajectories (when learning to reach around objects). However, whether these are in fact distinct methods of imitation, and if so, whether they may be applied interchangeably to perform the same task, remain unknown. If these are indeed separate mechanisms that rely on different computational and neural resources, a cost should be incurred when switching from using one mechanism to the other within the context of a single task. Therefore, observing a processing cost would both provide evidence that these are indeed two distinct mechanisms, and that they may be used interchangeably when trying to imitate the same stimulus. To test this, twenty-five healthy young adults performed a sequential multitasking imitation task. Participants were first instructed to pay attention to the limb postures or the hand path of a video-recorded model, then performed a neutral, congruent, or incongruent intervening motor task. Finally, participants imitated the modeled movement. We examined both spatial and temporal imitation accuracy as well as individual spatial consistency. When the primary task involved imitating trajectories, analysis of individual consistency suggested a processing cost: movements following the posture-matching intervening task were less consistent with baseline (neutral) performance, suggesting performance may be disrupted by the incongruence. This effect was not observed when imitating limb postures. In summary, we present initial evidence for a difference between posture matching and trajectory imitation as a result of instructions and intervening tasks that is consistent with the existence of two computationally distinct imitation mechanisms.
... The provision of feedback during exercise provides individuals with the opportunity to adjust their behaviour in a way to increase performance and reach goals. One mechanism through which feedback is argued to work is message valence; that is, the perceived positivity or negativity of the feedback statement [9]. Positive feedback affirms that the person is likely to achieve the desired goal. ...
Article
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Exercise is beneficial for physical and psychological health, yet the majority of Australian adults are not sufficiently active to gain health benefits. Novel methods are needed to enhance the experience of exercise and ultimately exercise participation. The present study examined performance and psychological experiences during a (non-immersive) virtual reality cycling task that incorporated affective feedback. Female participants (N = 137, university students) received either positive, negative, or neutral virtual feedback while cycling on a stationary bicycle in a virtual reality laboratory environment under the instruction to maintain at least 70% of their maximal heart rate for as long as possible (or up to 30 minutes). Participants also responded to measures of affect, motivation, enjoyment, and competitiveness. Data were analysed with ANOVA's performed with feedback groups and trait competitiveness for the psychological and performance dependent measures. Results showed that positive feedback elicited greater interest and enjoyment during the task than neutral and negative feedback. In addition, perceived competence was greater with positive feedback than for neutral and negative feedback in low competitive participants. The type of feedback did not affect performance (cycling persistence, perceived exertion, and effort). The findings indicate the potential importance of providing positive virtual feedback and considering the interaction of individual difference factors, specifically competitiveness, to enhance virtual exercise experiences.
... Evidence suggests that analogy learning results in skill learning that is resistant to breakdown under multi-tasking and psychological pressure (e.g., Liao & Masters, 2002 ;. The use of attentional cues that direct attention externally to the movement outcomes (focus on ball's trajectory) rather than internally to the movement itself (focus on wrist flexion) have also been shown to be effective in reducing conscious control of movements ( Wulf, 2013 ). Coaches might find the use of external attentional cues particularly beneficial when using video feedback as they can direct their athlete's attention towards certain aspects of the video (i.e., movement outcomes). ...
Article
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Skill acquisition research has great potential to inform coaching practices and can impact skill development, especially at the youth developmental stage. However, it is not always easy for coaches to envision how research findings can be applied on the ground. The Skill Acquisition Framework for youth sport in Singapore is aimed at providing an easy to understand evidence-based resource for coaches on the topic of skill acquisition. The framework consists of 3 dimensions (i.e., Desirable characteristics of youth athletes, Key Concepts and Key Design Principles). Each of these dimensions will enable coaches to reflect on their current practices and facilitate discussions in a systematic manner. The first dimension provides coaches with the opportunity to think about the most important characteristics that they want to develop in youth athletes (motivated, adaptable, robust under pressure). The second dimension of the framework introduces Key Concepts related to skill acquisition that are crucial for coaches to consider when working with athletes. Finally, the third dimension presents the Key Design Principles that can underpin the design of training sessions.
... Importantly, attentional effects on movement that have been reported for adults have also been demonstrated for children (see Diekfuss et al., 2021;Wulf, 2013, for reviews). School-age children (ages 8-10 years) who were performing a vertical jump task showed an increase in jump height and greater efficiency (i.e., reduced electromyographic activity) when adopting an external focus of attention relative to control conditions (Ashraf et al., 2012(Ashraf et al., , 2017. ...
Article
Purpose Contemporary motor theories indicate that well-practiced movements are best performed automatically, without conscious attention or monitoring. We applied this perspective to speech production in school-age children and examined how dual-task conditions that engaged sustained attention affected speech fluency, speech rate, and language productivity in children with and without stuttering disorders. Method Participants included 47 children (19 children who stutter, 28 children who do not stutter) from 7 to 12 years of age. Children produced speech in two baseline conditions with no concurrent task and under a dual-task condition requiring sustained attention to on-screen stimuli. Measures of speech fluency, speech rate, and language productivity were obtained for each trial and compared across conditions and groups. Results Dual-task conditions resulted in a reduction in stutter-like disfluencies relative to the initial baseline speaking condition. Effects were similar for both groups of children and could not be attributed to decreases in language productivity or a simple order effect. Conclusions Findings suggest that diverting attention during the process of speech production enhances speech fluency in children, possibly by increasing the automaticity of motor speech sequences. Further research is needed to clarify neurophysiological mechanisms underlying these changes and to evaluate potential clinical applications of such effects. Supplemental Material https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.19945838
... In this study, our participants appeared to successfully modulate their gait speed during a single-day session when provided concurrent visual feedback and an external focus by the MR-HMD. Our findings align with substantial evidence supporting an external focus to promote motor performance and learning (Wulf, 2013;Chua et al., 2021). ...
Article
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Humans routinely modify their walking speed to adapt to functional goals and physical demands. However, damage to the central nervous system (CNS) often results in abnormal modulation of walking speed and increased risk of falls. There is considerable interest in treatment modalities that can provide safe and salient training opportunities, feedback about walking performance, and that may augment less reliable sensory feedback within the CNS after injury or disease. Fully immersive virtual reality technologies show benefits in boosting training-related gains in walking performance; however, they lack views of the real world that may limit functional carryover. Augmented reality and mixed reality head-mount displays (MR-HMD) provide partially immersive environments to extend the virtual reality benefits of interacting with virtual objects but within an unobstructed view of the real world. Despite this potential advantage, the feasibility of using MR-HMD visual feedback to promote goal-directed changes in overground walking speed remains unclear. Thus, we developed and evaluated a novel mixed reality application using the Microsoft HoloLens MR-HMD that provided real-time walking speed targets and augmented visual feedback during overground walking. We tested the application in a group of adults not living with disability and examined if they could use the targets and visual feedback to walk at 85%, 100%, and 115% of each individual’s self-selected speed. We examined whether individuals were able to meet each target gait speed and explored differences in accuracy across repeated trials and at the different speeds. Additionally, given the importance of task-specificity to therapeutic interventions, we examined if walking speed adjustment strategies were consistent with those observed during usual overground walking, and if walking with the MR-HMD resulted in increased variability in gait parameters. Overall, participants matched their overground walking speed to the target speed of the MR-HMD visual feedback conditions (all p-values > 0.05). The percent inaccuracy was approximately 5% across all speed matching conditions and remained consistent across walking trials after the first overall walking trial. Walking with the MR-HMD did not result in more variability in walking speed, however, we observed more variability in stride length and time when walking with feedback from the MR-HMD compared to walking without feedback. The findings offer support for mixed reality-based visual feedback as a method to provoke goal-specific changes in overground walking behavior. Further studies are necessary to determine the clinical safety and efficacy of this MR-HMD technology to provide extrinsic sensory feedback in combination with traditional treatments in rehabilitation.
Article
Objective(s) To describe a) how motor learning principles are applied during post stroke physiotherapy, with a focus on lower limb rehabilitation; and b) the context in which these principles are used, in relation to patient and/or task characteristics. Design Direct non-participation observation of routine physiotherapy sessions, with data collected via video recording. A structured analysis matrix and pre-agreed definitions were used to identify, count and record: type of activity; repetitions; instructional and feedback statements (frequency and type); strategies such as observational learning and augmented feedback. Data was visualised using scatter plots, and analysed descriptively. Setting 6 UK Stroke Units Participants 89 therapy sessions were observed, involving 55 clinicians and 57 patients. Results Proportion of time spent active within each session ranged from 26 to 98% (mean 85, SD 19;). The frequency of task repetition varied widely, with a median of 3.7 repetitions per minute (IQR 2.1 - 8.6). Coaching statements were common (mean 6.46 per minute), with 52% categorised as instructions, 14% as feedback, and 34% as verbal cues/motivational statements. 13% of instructions and 6% of feedback statements were externally focussed. Examining the use of different coaching behaviours in relation to patient characteristics found no associations. Overall, practice varied widely across the dataset. Conclusions To optimise the potential for motor skill learning, therapists must manipulate features of their coaching language (what they say, how much and when) and practice design (type, number, difficulty and variability of task). There is an opportunity to implement motor learning principles more consistently, to benefit motor skill recovery following stroke.
Article
In Parkinson's disease, the optimal attentional focus strategy for dual-task walking may vary with freezing of gait (FOG), due to different severities of impaired automaticity. The study aimed to investigate (i) the immediate effect of attentional focus on dual-task walking in participants with and without FOG, and (ii) the training effect of attentional focus on walking, FOG, and falls. In experiment 1, FOG and non-FOG groups (16 participants each) performed a dual-task of holding two interlocking rings apart while walking, either without attention instruction or with instructions to focus attention internally or externally. Gait parameters and ring-touching times were measured. In experiment 2, 30 participants with FOG were randomized to 6 weeks of dual-task training with internal-focus or external-focus instruction. Before and after training, we recorded timed up-and-go (TUG) and TUG dual-task (TUGdt) in on-medication and off-medication states, and the numbers of FOG episodes and falls. The non-FOG group showed less step length variability and shorter ring-touching times with external-focus. The FOG group showed less step length variability, less cadence, increased gait velocity, and longer step lengths with internal-focus compared to external-focus and no-focus instructions. Both internal-focus and external-focus training reduced FOG and falls after intervention, but only internal-focus training reduced TUG and TUGdt in both on-medication and off-medication states. Our findings suggest external-focus would enhance walking automaticity and the concurrent task accuracy for non-freezers, whereas for freezers, internal-focus could increase gait stability and lead to a more positive effect on improving locomotion control and reducing falling risk.
Article
Introduction: Many gait retraining studies use cues that promote internal focus of attention. However, the motor control literature clearly shows the beneficial effects of using cues that promote an external focus of attention (EFOA) when teaching new movements. This case report seeks to illustrate the outcomes of using an EFOA for running gait retraining. It also examines whether retrained mechanics transfer across different running speeds. Case descriptions: A 22-year-old female competitive runner with a history of tibial stress injuries was the participant. Patient management: Baseline assessments of flexibility, strength, and running biomechanics were performed after which an eight-session gait retraining protocol was implemented. Visual (mirror) and verbal feedback (EFOA) cues were provided during the retraining protocol. Outcomes showed improved hip, knee, and ankle kinematics, reduced ground reaction forces, and earlier onset and longer durations of muscle activity following retraining. These improvements transferred across running speeds. Discussion and conclusion: In this participant, EFOA cues were effective for the gait retraining protocol and the benefits were transferable across running speeds. Clinicians should consider how EFOA cues may be incorporated to improve gait retraining outcomes.
Article
Ideomotor theories suggest that different action-effects are not equally important in goal-directed actions, and that task-relevant information are weighted stronger during the representation of actions. This stronger weighting of task-relevant action-effects might also enable to utilize them as retrieval cues of the corresponding motor patterns. The aim of the present study was to investigate how the consistent presence or absence of a sound action-effect influenced the retrieval of the motor components of a simple, everyday action (pinching) as reflected by the pattern of force application and surface electromyogram (sEMG) recorded from the abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and first dorsal interosseous (FDI). Participants applied pairs of pinch impulses to a force sensitive resistor (FSR). The presence or absence of a sound action-effect and the between-action interval (BAI, 2 or 4 s) were manipulated blockwise, whereas the target force level (low or high) was randomly cued from trial to trial. When actions resulted in a sound, force and sEMG activity were reduced. This effect was more pronounced for low target force level trials, which is compatible with a stronger weighting of the sound action-effect when the intensity of the tactile and proprioceptive action-effects is low. Surprisingly, the FDI activity was more variable within actions pairs in the 2 s BAI conditions, which suggests that action pairs separated by the longer time interval might have been represented differently from those separated by the shorter interval.
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Background & Objectives: Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may have difficulty performing motor skills due to the lack of motor function and physical fitness. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate methods on improving the motor function in ADHD children. Psychological variables are among the most crucial factors affecting the performance of athletes and students in sports and schools. One of these variables is instructional self-talk. Self-talk is one of the most prominent cognitive strategies, i.e., widely used to improve performance and learning. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of instructional self-talk on the performance and learning of the skill of overarm throwing in ten-year-old male students with ADHD. Methods: The statistical population of this study consisted of all 10-year-old male students with ADHD in Tabriz City, Iran. The samples were studying at the elementary schools of Tabriz in the 2017-2018 academic year. In total, 40 male students aged 10 years with ADHD (mean±SD age: 10.20±0.819 years) who were unfamiliar with the task of overarm throwing participated in this study. The study participants were randomly divided into the instructional self-talk (n=20) and control (n=20) groups. The study's purpose was to throw a tennis ball from overarm with the non-superior hand. In the acquisition phase, the study subjects were continuously trained on 5 sessions for 5 days (6 blocks of 10 attempts per session), and the next day, they performed a retention test with ten attempts were conducted. To investigate the data normality, the Shapiro-Wilk test was used. Independent Samples t-test was used for pretest-posttest and retention tests for inter-group comparisons. Finally, repeated-measures Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) as applied to test the effects of the training program in both groups. Results: The obtained results indicated that instructional self-talk was developed at the acquisition stage, and there was a significant difference between the groups in this respect. In the retention phase, there was a significant difference between the two groups, and this advantage was in favor of the instructional self-talk group (p<0.05). Conclusion: The achieved results highlighted the effectiveness of instructional self-talk on the motor learning of decade-old students with ADHD. Thus, it is suggested that educators and athletic instructors use self-talk instructional techniques to facilitate learning to learn and retention throwing skills.
Article
Ultrasound biofeedback therapy (UBT), which incorporates real-time imaging of tongue articulation, has demonstrated generally positive speech remediation outcomes for individuals with residual speech sound disorder (RSSD). However, UBT requires high attentional demands and may therefore benefit from a simplified display of articulation targets that are easily interpretable and can be compared to real-time articulation. Identifying such targets requires automatic quantification and analysis of movement features relevant to accurate speech production. Our image-analysis program TonguePART automatically quantifies tongue movement as tongue part displacement trajectories from midsagittal ultrasound videos of the tongue, with real-time capability. The present study uses such displacement trajectories to compare accurate and misarticulated American-English rhotic /ɑr/ productions from 40 children, with degree of accuracy determined by auditory perceptual ratings. To identify relevant features of accurate articulation, support vector machine (SVM) classifiers were trained and evaluated on several candidate data representations. Classification accuracy was up to 85%, indicating that quantification of tongue part displacement trajectories captured tongue articulation characteristics that distinguish accurate from misarticulated production of /ɑr/. Regression models for perceptual ratings were also compared. The simplest data representation that retained high predictive ability, demonstrated by high classification accuracy and strong correlation between observed and predicted ratings, was displacements at the midpoint of /r/ relative to /ɑ/ for the tongue dorsum and blade. This indicates that movements of the dorsum and blade are especially relevant to accurate production of /r/, suggesting that a predictive parameter and biofeedback target based on this data representation may be usable for simplified UBT.
Article
Although neuromuscular training (NMT) programmes positively enhance clinical deficits in chronic ankle instability (CAI) patients, the effectiveness of NMTs in restoring movement patterns during jump landing is still questionable. Before developing new prolonged motor-learning interventions, it is important to determine the immediate effects of intervention on movement patterns during jump-landing in patients with CAI. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether real-time external feedback using a crossline laser device changes the movement patterns during jump-landing and balance tasks in patients with CAI. Eighteen patients with CAI completed three successful single-leg jump-landing tasks and single-leg balance tasks under the conditions of with and without external feedback. Lower-extremity joint angles, moments, and EMG activation of six muscles were collected during the single leg jump-landing task and centre of pressure data were collected during the single-leg balance test. Real-time external feedback allowed to change neuromechanical characteristics in the entire lower-extremity (i.e., ankle, knee, and hip joints) during jump-landing. However, there were no differences in static postural control between the two conditions. Clinicians should carefully consider incorporating a cost-effective laser device into an augmented NMT programme of longer duration to improve movement patterns during functional tasks in patients with CAI.
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زمینه و هدف: هدف پژوهش حاضر بررسی اثر دستورالعملهای کانون توجه با تکلیف ثانویه بر عملکرد دریبل فوتبال کودکان )ماهر در دریبل فوتبال( بود. روش کار: روش پژوهش از نوع نیمه تجربی با طرح پیش آزمون- پس آزمون بود که با سه گروه انجام شد. از بین جامعه آماری، به طور هدفمند و در دسترس 45 نفر از دانش آموزانی که در اجرای دریبل فوتبال، امتیازی بین 12 تا 16( کمتر از 16 ثانیه( کسب کردند را به عنوان نمونه انتخاب و به طور تصادفی و بر اساس دستورالعمل توجهی به سه گروه 15 نفره تقسیم کردیم. از آزمون دریبل بین موانع فوتبال برای سنجش عملکرد آزمودنیها استفاده شد. شرکت کننده های هر گروه 6 کوشش )3 کوشش در پیش آزمون و 3 کوشش در پس آزمون( انجام دادند. برای تعیین طبیعی بودن داده ها و همگنی واریانسها از آزمونهای شاپیرو ویلک و لِون استفاده شد و برای مقایسه گروهها و تعیین محل معناداری، از آزمونهای تحلیل واریانس یکطرفه و آزمون تعقیبی توکی استفاده شد.. یافته ها: نتایج نشان داد گروهی که هیچ دستورالعملی دریافت نکرده بود، به طور معنی داری عملکرد بهتری نسبت به دو گروه توجه درونی و بیرونی داشت )05/0≤P .) نتیجه گیری: با توجه به نتایج می توان پیشنهاد کرد که نیازی نیست به افراد ماهر دستورالعملهای توجهی ارائه گردد، بلکه آنها باید آزاد باشند تا خودشان کانون توجه مناسب را انتخاب کنند.
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Objective: This study aimed to investigate the effect of the combination of attention (external focus) and internal motivation (autonomy support and enhanced expectancies) on learning the skill of throwing darts. Methods: For this purpose, 60 women participated in the study. our study included 4 groups: a) autonomy support-external focus (AS-EF); b) enhanced expectancies-external focus (EE-EF); C) enhanced expectancies-autonomy support (EE-AS); and d) enhanced expectancies-autonomy support-external focus (EE-AS-EF). Participants were asked to throw darts at a target with their non-dominant arm. In the EE conditions, they received (false) positive social-comparative feedback. In the AS conditions, they were allowed to throw 5 of 10 trials in each block with their dominant arm chosen by them. In the EF conditions, participants were asked to focus on the target. on the post-test after the end of the training period and retention and transfer test 24 hours after practice, the AS-EE-EF group had the highest accuracy scores and outperformed all other groups. Results: The results of the between-group comparison for throwing accuracy showed that the EE-AS-EF group was a significant difference compared to the other groups. Conclusions: The findings provide evidence that enhanced expectancies, autonomy support, and an external focus can contribute in an additive style to optimize motor performance and learning .
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The present study examined the influence of the individual and sequential combination of the key components of OPTIMAL (Optimizing Performance Through Intrinsic Motivation and Attention for Learning) theory (i.e., enhanced expectancies, autonomy support, and external focus), on the performance of a laser-pistol shooting task. In addition to shooting accuracy, intra-trial variability in the sway of forearm/pistol motion prior to movement execution (pulling the trigger) was the primary variable of interest. In a between-within-subject design, thirty-six participants (Mage = 21.27 ± 1.75 years) were randomized into either a control or an optimized group. Enhanced expectancies, autonomy support, and an external focus were implemented via sequential blocks of trials for participants in the optimized group. Participants in the control group performed all trials under "neutral" conditions. Our results showed that motor performance was enhanced for participants in the optimized group compared to those in the control group. Moreover, greater reductions in forearm sway leading up to the trigger pull were observed for the optimized group compared to the control group. These findings suggest higher movement effectiveness and efficiency, potentially through better attunement to task and environmental constraints, when implementing optimized instructions in a self-initiated fine motor task.
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There is debate in the literature regarding how manipulating the focus of attention (FOA) influences ground reaction forces during the standing long jump (SLJ) and gaps in understanding as to which phases of the SLJ are affected (takeoff, flight, and landing) and whether FOA manipulation benefits remain when tasks are performed in fixed body postures. Purpose: This study compared SLJ performance under external (EXT) and internal (INT) FOA conditions with free and fixed postures. Methods: Twenty participants performed SLJs under EXT and INT FOA conditions while being allowed to swing arms freely and having to keep hands on their hips. Kinematics and kinetics were recorded using 3D-motion capture and force plates. Jump distances, projection angles, and ground reaction forces and impulses were compared across conditions using a 2 × 3 repeated measures ANOVA. Results: Jump distances were significantly further with EXT FOA (p < .001). These differences were due to increases in the takeoff distance (p < .001) and landing distances (p < .001), with flight distances not being different between the conditions (p = .061). Peak horizontal ground reaction forces (p < .001) and impulses (p < .001) were both greater, while projection angles were lower (p = .002) in the EXT FOA condition. Conclusions: Improvements in SLJ distance with an EXT FOA are due to the takeoff and landing phases; manipulating FOA does change forces during the SLJ; and that benefits of an EXT FOA are realized even when movements are performed with constrained body postures.
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It is well established that adopting an external focus of attention (EF) enhances motor learning when contrasted to an internal focus (IF) or a neutral condition. Despite consistent evidence for this performance-enhancing effect of an EF, recent studies show that coaches predominantly induce an IF in the communication with athletes. It remains, however, unknown whether and to what degree coach-, content- or player-related factors have an impact on the focus of attention during youth tennis training. Therefore, we recorded all statements from 10 tennis coaches during six training sessions with a total of 87 youth athletes aged 18 years or younger. All statements were categorized according to the focus they induced (IF, EF, neutral, best place to hit the ball, mix, no focus) and the form of communication (instruction, feedback). Of the relevant statements (n=3049), 45.1% promoted an EF, whereas 33.1% induced an IF. Evaluation of coaches-, player- and content-specific features (education, age of coach/player, training content, skill level) showed that more statements with an IF were given when training beginners. The data also show more statements with an EF for instructions (59.0%) compared to feedback (43.0%). Our results contrast with other sports where instructions with an IF predominate. Thus, instrumented sports with external targets (e.g. tennis) might be better suited for inducing an EF. The data also show that coaches are more likely to use IF when communicating with beginners. Consequently, an EF should not be induced in every possible situation, even if this is often communicated so far.
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The focus of attention is one of the psychological interventions that can affect performance and motor learning improvement of individuals. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the effect of Instructions for focus of attention on the control of the posture of boys aged 9-12 years in suprapostural tasks. The research design was Within and Between-Subject that Semi-experimental method implemented. 45 Elementary school boys in Malayer city were selected randomly, and divided into three groups (15 people): external attention, internal attention and control group. The participants were keep their postural control by using instructions on suprapostural task (3 efforts). In external attention; attention on the bar in their hands, in internal attention; attention on their own hands, and control group no instruction were received. The result showed that learning process in both internal focus group (P=0.022), and external focus group (P=0.040), is significant compared to the control group. However, no significant differences were found in learning between external focus group and internal focus group (P=0.794). According to the results it can be argued that the focus of attention as one of the cognitive tools can have a significant effect on improving the postural control of boys (9 to 12 years old).
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Musician’s Focal Dystonia (MFD) is a task-specific, neurological disorder with poorly understood pathophysiology, affecting highly skilled musicians, ending successful careers. Studies found neurological changes in the sufferers’ brains, which presumably occurred via negative neuroplasticity, however, surprisingly little is known of what triggers these changes. Recently, non-organic risk factors, such as maladaptive psychological traits and preceding trauma have been suggested by a handful of studies, but the field has not yet been explored in detail. The aim of the study was to identify and describe the non-organic factors which might contribute to the onset of MFD. Due to the study’s exploratory nature, a qualitative constructivist Grounded Theory (GT) design was chosen, with the goal of generating a theory that emerges directly from the data. 15 MFD sufferers (5 females, mean age = 36.1) were interviewed for the study. Apart from previously suggested traits, such as anxiety and perfectionism, we found that the educational environment might also be influential. Many participants studied in a negative emotional climate, faced unattainable demands, and were instructed to focus only on the technical aspects of their playing. Consequently, they developed unhealthy practice strategies and negative perfectionism and these problems were often accompanied by negative emotional coping and maladaptive health behaviours. In addition, many participants experienced trauma before the onset of the condition. These findings support the theory that MFD is a multifaceted condition that could partially originate from non-organic factors. It also suggests that the environment – especially the educational approach – might be more influential than previously thought. This might have further implications not only for prevention and research but for the treatment strategies as well. It is likely, that opposing a purely medical procedure, an interdisciplinary approach would enhance the currently used therapies and would increase the possibility of the rehabilitation of the suffering musicians.
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Predictability is increasingly recognized as an important principle in perception and motor learning. The pursuit of increased predictability seems to one of the main goals that the human system pursues. Therefore, providing predictability in one of the most challenging situations that humans face, namely multitasking, a promising line of research. In this thesis the impact of predictability was systematically investigated in five experiments. In the first four experiments predictability was achieved by implementing a repeating pattern in one task, or both tasks. Participants acquired knowledge of these patterns either explicitly or implicitly in several training sessions, under single-task or dual-task conditions. We tested whether this increased predictability helped dual-task performance after the training sessions. The results suggest that predictability is helpful for dual-task performance, although the benefits are confined to the predictable task itself. In a fifth experiment we focused on providing between task predictability, which led to a large performance improvement in both tasks, prompting the discussion about what constitutes a task, in the sense of when can two tasks be perceived as a single task comprising both, a theoretical problem we tried to tackle in one of the articles. Explanations for the findings, theoretical implications, methodological issues and suggestions for future research are given in the general discussion
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Time efficiency is crucial when teaching SCUBA-diving with limited practice time. Safety skills must be learned with sufficient quality and still be mastered after long breaks and in critical situations. We hypothesized a rule-directed learning approach (RL), which provides the learners with information on the best way to perform a skill, to show good initial results but less stability over time. Discovery learning (DL), which enables learners to experience more variability and to find individual solutions, might support greater stability over time and higher robustness to stress and fatigue. 25 beginners (age:22.5 ± 2.7; 5 females) were randomly assigned to RL (N = 13) or DL (N = 12) and received the same general criteria for successful deployment of a surface marker buoy. Only RL got additional visual presentation and explicit instructions. Six acquisition trials were conducted. Three evaluation trials were performed, video-recorded, and independently rated for water-position/trim, time, and safety-aspects (Pre). Another three rated trials were performed after 45 (±5) days without further practice (Retention). Safety performance was rated higher for RL both during Pre (P < 0.001) and Retention (P < 0.001), but RL took significantly more time during Pre (P < 0.001) and Retention (P < 0.001) and reported a significantly higher perceived performance quality during Retention (P = 0.014) compared to DL. Trim performance improved for RL and deteriorated for DL from Pre to Retention. Performance quality in unique aspects of the new skill seems to benefit more from explicit instructions with a detriment for speed. The suspected higher learning for DL and robust performance in the Retention test could not be observed.
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External focus of attention (EFA) studies among children have yielded more equivocal results than have those among adults. Some investigators have found an internal focus of attention (IFA) advantage in children and have explained their results by children’s generally lower skill levels, compared to adults. According to the constrained action hypothesis, children’s lower skill levels are not yet associated with over-learned automatic movement patterns, so their motor performance is not disrupted by IFA instructions. In this study, our objective was to examine a possible interaction effect between children’s skill levels and their exposure to either IFA or EFA instructions on motor performance. Our participants were 40 10–15-year-old taekwondo competitors of higher and lower skill levels (based on both the participant’s experience and their test performance) who engaged in a taekwondo kicking movement before and after either IFA or EFA instructions. We found improved kicking performance with EFA versus IFA instructions only among less versus more skilled participants.
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Initial research evidence suggests that learners may benefit from focussing their attention upon the demonstrated movement of a distal point of an action, also known as end-point trajectory matching. In the present study, verbal instructions were used by rowing coaches to promote either an end-point focus (i.e., the oar blade) or an internal focus of attention (i.e., the rower's movements) amongst novice learners. The goal for the learners was to practice and improve the 'catch', which is the instant that the blade of the oar enters and locks onto the water. The learners were coached in 24 training sessions over a six-week period, they then rowed in retention and transfer tests seven weeks later. The End-point group showed improvements in technique (i.e., more effective and efficient oar placement in the water) at the end of the skill acquisition period and also in retention and transfer conditions. The Internal group did not show the same level of improvement by the end of the acquisition phase but did demonstrate some improvements by the retention and transfer tests. This study suggests that paying attention to the end-point is beneficial for novices learning complex, whole body movements (such as rowing) as well as for relatively simple, precision tasks.
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We examined effects of attentional focus on swimming speed. Participants' task was to swim one length of a pool (16 m) using the front crawl stroke. In Experiment 1, intermediate swimmers were given attentional focus instructions related to the crawl arm stroke or the leg kick, respectively. Participants were instructed to focus on "pulling your hands back" or "pushing the instep down" (internal focus), or on "pushing the water back/down" (external focus), respectively. Swim times were significantly shorter with an external focus. In Experiment 2, a control condition was included. Times were significantly faster in the external focus compared with both the internal focus and control conditions. These findings have implications for enhancing performance in swimming.
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Porter, JM, Wu, WFW, Crossley, RM, Knopp, SW, and Campbell, OC. Adopting an external focus of attention improves sprinting performance in low-skilled sprinters. J Strength Cond Res 29(4): 947-953, 2015-For more than 10 years, researchers have investigated how the focusing of conscious attention influences motor skill execution. This line of investigation has consistently demonstrated that directing attention externally rather than internally improves motor skill learning and performance. The purpose of this study was to test the prediction that participants completing a 20-m sprint would run significantly faster when using an external focus of attention rather than an internal or no-focus of attention. Participants were college-aged volunteers (N = 84; 42 women, 42 men; mean age = 20.32, SD = 1.73 years) with no prior sprint training. This study used a counterbalanced within-participant design. Each participant completed 3 days of testing, with each day utilizing a different focus of attention (i.e. internal, external, or control). Running times were collected automatically using infrared timing gates. Data were analyzed using a 1-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). The results of the ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for condition, F (1, 83) = 6565.3, p ≤ 0.001. Follow-up analysis indicated that the trials completed in the external focus condition (mean = 3.75 seconds, SD = 0.43) were significantly faster than trials completed in the internal (mean = 3.87 seconds, SD = 0.64) and control conditions (mean = 3.87 seconds, SD = 0.45). The analysis also indicated that the control and internal conditions were not significantly different. The results of this study extend the findings of previous research and demonstrate sprinting performance can be improved by using an external focus of attention.
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Wulf and colleagues (e.g., Wulf, Lauterbach, & Toole, 1999) have demonstrated that the adoption of an external focus of attention is preferable for the learning of complex motor tasks. The present investigation extends the attention focus literature in two ways: (a) it compared the effectiveness of three different foci (internal, proximal external, and distal external) in a sample of skilled performers in a naturalistic environment, and (b) it examined the use of attentional foci under conditions of anxiety. Thirty-three skilled male golfers were assigned to one of three attentional focus groups and completed five blocks of ten pitch shots, three in neutral conditions and two in anxiety conditions. Results from two separate mixed model analyses of variance (ANOVAs) indicated that regardless of anxiety condition, those assigned to a distal external focus of attention performed most accurately (p < 0.05), whereas assignment to an internal focus of attention was associated with the least accurate performance (p < 0.05). Findings offer support for the constrained action hypothesis and point to the importance of skilled performers adopting a distal external focus, especially in competition.
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This experiment followed up on previous studies showing learning benefits of instructions directing the performers' attention to the effects of their movements (external focus) relative to instructions directing attention to the movements themselves (internal focus). The main purpose was to determine whether similar advantages could be achieved by preventing learners from focusing on their movements through the use of an attention-demanding secondary task. Participants practiced balancing on a stabilometer. External and internal focus group participants were instructed to focus on markers attached to the balance platform or on their feet, respectively. A third group was required to shadow a story presented to them while balancing. In addition, a control group without attentional focus instructions or a secondary task was included. The external focus group showed more effective balance learning than the other groups. The results provide evidence for the learning benefits of external focus instructions. In addition, they show that similar advantages cannot be achieved by simply preventing learners from focusing on the task to be learned.
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provide a perspective on the roles of mental control and hedonism in human behavior / the essence of the argument is that mental representations develop as a means of coordinating the conduct of time-consuming actions, and that the attainment of effective coordination—the calibration of mind and action—comes to complement and sometimes supplant simple hedonism as the driving force in thought and behavior what is the source of plans, goals, motives, and the like that provide the basis for the . . . conscious control of action / how do such representations come to control behavior / are mental representations typically stable over time, providing consistent bases for action, or are they instead malleable, showing dramatic change in response to events and social forces / when does mental control become ineffective or otherwise maladaptive / what is the relationship between mental control and emotion (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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A growing body of research has demonstrated that the type of information emphasized in the verbal instructions given to individuals can significantly influence subsequent move-ment production as a function of the direction of attentional focus. Specifically, Wulf and colleagues (for reviews, see Wulf, 2007; Wulf & Prinz, 2001) have consistently shown that instructions or feedback which direct performers' and learners' attention toward their own bodily movements (an internal focus of attention) results in poorer movement execution and learning when compared to instructions which emphasize directing atten-tion toward the intended effects of the movements (an external focus of attention). Such findings have been demonstrated with sports skills (e.g., golf: Wulf, Lauterbach, & Toole, 1999; soccer: Wulf, McConnel, Gärtner, & Schwarz, 2002), core movements skills (e.g., Novices threw darts during two sessions (one week apart) using either internal or external attentional focusing instructions. During session one, participants used internal instructions for half the throws and external instructions for the other half of the throws, whereas session two required the use of only one strategy for all throws. Accuracy during session one was not affected by attentional strategy, although a significant interaction indicated that accuracy is influenced when changing from one strategy to the other. After session one, significantly more participants reported a preference for the external instructions. During session two, the external strategy group was significantly more accurate than the internal group. Of those using the external strategy, participants indicating an internal strategy preference after prac-tice were significantly less accurate than those who indicated a preference for the external strategy. Participants rated their preferred strategy as requiring less effort than the alternative.
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I t is well documented that directing attention externally enhances motor skill learning and performance under controlled experimental conditions. What is not well understood is how verbal instructions (VI) and feedback provided by coaches in authentic environments influences athletes' focus of attention. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the type of VI and feedback provided by experienced coaches during practice, and how this information influenced elite athletes' focus of attention during competition. Participants were athletes competing at the USA Track and Field Outdoor National Championships. Participants completed a survey inquiring about the VI and feedback provided during practice and what they focused on while competing. The data revealed that 84.6% of the participants reported that coaches provided instructions during practice that promoted an internal focus of attention. Participants also reported they utilize internal focus cues 69% of the time during competition. These results suggest that this sample of coaches provided instructions that focused athletes' attention internally. This practice strategy is inconsistent with motor learning research, which shows learning and performance are enhanced when using an external focus of attention during motor skill execution. Recommendations are made to improve coaching education curriculums, bridging the gap between science and application.
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SUMMARY Targeted human movements show considerable variability in the kinematics and in the result of the movement. Even when the conditions under which they are performed remain constant and the movement is highly trained, repeated attempts show deviations in kinematic and dynamographic parameters. This characteristic of human movement becomes critical when the task requires a high degree of consistency in movement outcome. In two experiments on this kind of task the variability of the result of the movement and of selected parameters of the performed movement itself were recorded. It can be shown by the example of throwing darts that, above all, good throwers succeed in reducing the variability in movement outcome to a greater extent than would seem to be possible considering the variability occurring during the course of the movement. U sing a virtual dart throwing task in a second experiment it is shown that this phenomenon is a consequence of a convergence of the position-time curves of the throwing movement towards the so called "equifinal" path of movement.
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A performer’s focus of attention has been shown to influence motor performance and learning in a variety of motor skills. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effects of an external and internal focus of attention on discus throwing. Participants (N=20; mean age: 22 years, SD: 1.58) were recruited from an undergraduate male student population that had limited experience with the task. Using a within-participants design, all participants completed five maximum effort trials under each attentional focus condition (external and internal). The results of a repeated-measures ANCOVA revealed that participants had a significantly more effective performance in external focus of attention condition compared with the internal attentional focus. These findings are in line with the previous studies showing enhanced motor performance as a result of using external versus internal focus of attention. Therefore, it is suggested that coaches and practitioners give instructions that promote an external focus of attention.
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The influence of internal (movement focus) and external (outcome focus) attentional-focusing instructions on muscular endurance were investigated using three exercise protocols with experienced exercisers. Twenty-three participants completed a maximal repetition, assisted bench-press test on a Smith's machine. An external focus of attention resulted in significant (p < .05) improvements in performance compared to the internal focus of attention, but not the control condition. Seventeen participants completed repetitions to failure at 75% 1-RM on free bench-press and squat exercises. In both tasks, externally focused instructions resulted in significantly greater repetitions to failure than control and internal focus conditions (p < .05). These results support previous research showing beneficial effects of externally focused instructions on movement efficiency.
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Novice darts throwers completed a dart‐throwing task using either control (no additional instruction), external, or internal attentional focusing instructions. Ratings of the experience of using the instructions were collected post‐task (e.g., instructional difficulty). Participants using the external and control instructions performed significantly more accurately than those using the internal focus instructions but did not differ themselves. The control instructions were rated as significantly easier and less mentally demanding to use than the external instructions. The external and internal conditions did not differ in ratings of mental demands, but the external instructions were rated as more successful than the internal instructions. These results support previous research advocating the use of instructions that emphasize external goal‐related information and that novices can benefit immediately from such instruction.
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Background: The present study examined whether the learning benefits of an external focus of attention (i.e., on the movement effect) relative to an internal focus (i.e. on the movement), found previously in non-disabled children and adults would also be found in children with intellectual disabilities (IDs). Methods: Participants (n = 24; average age: 12.2 years) with mild intellectual deficiency (IQ = 51-69) practiced throwing beanbags at a target. In the external focus group, participants were instructed to direct their attention to the movement of the beanbag, while in the internal focus group, participants were asked to direct their attention to the movement of their hand. The practice phase consisted of 40 trials, and attentional focus reminders were given after every third trial. Learning was assessed 1 day later by retention and transfer (greater target distance) tests, each consisting of 10 trials. No focus reminders were given on that day. Results: The external focus group demonstrated more effective learning than the internal focus group, as evidenced by more accurate tosses on the transfer test. Conclusions: The present findings show that instructions that induce an external focus of attention can enhance motor learning in children with IDs.
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