Land, William, Tenenbaum, Gershon, Ward, Paul, Eklund, Robert C. and Eccles, David W. (2011) Examination of the mediating effects of visual information on the benefits of external focus. In: 13th European Congress of Sport Psychology, 12-17th July 2011, Madeira, Portugal. (Unpublished)

In recent years, a considerable amount of research has been conducted to delineate the effects of attentional focus on task performance (e.g., Wulf, 2007a). From this research, external focus has been shown to be beneficial to both motor learning and performance. Less clear, however, are the mechanisms through which external focus benefits performance (Poolton, Maxwell, Masters, & Raab, 2006). Traditionally, an information-processing perspective (e.g., common-coding theory) has suggested that external focus facilitates
performance by triggering associated sensorimotor representations responsible for motor production (Wulf & Prinz, 2001). More recently, however, a constraints-led perspective has suggested that external focus aids performance through facilitating attunement to environmental affordances (Davids, Button, & Bennet, 2008).
Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to examine the extent to which online visual information underpins the advantage of external focus.The study examined skilled golfers (n = 30) on a putting task under one of three attentional focus conditions (control, irrelevant, and external). Additionally, participants performed under full and occluded vision. Results indicated that participants using an external focus performed significantly better (i.e., made more putts) than participants in the control or irrelevant focus conditions. Furthermore, visual information did not mediate the extent to which external focus impacted performance. Overall, results did not support the notion that external focus facilitates attunement to affordances through the use of visual information. In contrast, the results are more in line with traditional accounts of external focus effects.

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