Attentional focus, motor learning, and expectancy effect

by Wichanart Thengtrirat

Institution: University of Queensland
Department: School of Psychology
Year: 2015
Keywords: Attention; Motor automaticity; Motor learning; Golf putt; Distraction; Internal focus; External focus; Outcome expectancy
Record ID: 1044530
Full text PDF: http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:353007


This dissertation examines the effect of attentional focus and expectancy on motor performance. The theoretical basis of attentional focus effects come from previous works of internal versus external type of focuses (Wulf, 2007), which states that external type of focus is superior for learning and performing motor skills. The theoretical mechanism of external versus internal focus is explained in relation to motor automaticity. Another series of research on the similar concept of attentional focus and motor performance utilised a distraction method (dual-task paradigm) to come to a similar conclusion (Beilock, 2011). Experts’ performance is not affected by distraction because their motor skills is automated and require low attentional capacity. The current research ran a series of studies to replicate and extend these previous findings and clarify some of the conflicting classification of different types of focuses. The purpose was to simplify some of the theoretical issues and enhance ecological validity for practitioners (e.g. coaches and athletes). However, current experiments did not find statistical significance of attentional focus effects on performance. Hence, the direction of the research turned to look at other variables potentially affecting performance. A key variable from the conducted experiments was identified as participants’ outcome expectancy. This expectancy effect was then manipulated in the research designs of two further studies which found significant effects. Participants performed accordingly to their outcome expectation regardless of the internal, external, or distraction methodology used. This finding was discussed in terms of potential research issue and practical implications in coaching and learning area