Diekfuss, Jed A., Ward, Paul and Raisbeck, Louisa D. (2016) Attention, workload, and performance: A dual-task simulated shooting study. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1612-197X

During skill execution, performers have been shown to attend to different aspects of movement, the external effects of one’s action, or to other environmental information. A variety of psychological mechanisms have been proposed to account for the differential outcomes when adopting each attentional strategy. However, there is limited information about the extent to which different attentional foci change the workload demands of task performance. To examine this, the current study administered the NASA-Task Load Index following a simulated shooting dual-task. Participants performed the primary shooting task alone (control), and also with a secondary task that directed attention toward an aspect of skill execution (skill-focused) and an unrelated environmental stimulus (extraneous focus). Primary and secondary task performances were significantly greater in the extraneous focus compared to the skill-focused dual-task. Also, workload was significantly lower during the extraneous focus compared to the skill-focused dual-task condition. Further analyses revealed that workload significantly mediated the effects of skill level on performance during the skill-focused and extraneous focus dual-tasks and various subscales of workload (i.e., temporal demand) contributed unique amounts of variance to this relationship. A discussion of the relationship between attention, workload and its subcomponents, skill level, and performance is presented.

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