Impact of attentional focus on motor performance within the context of “early” limb regulation and “late” target control

Roberts, James W. and Lawrence, Gavin P. (2019) Impact of attentional focus on motor performance within the context of “early” limb regulation and “late” target control. Acta Psychologica, 198. ISSN 0001-6918

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Directing attention to the effect of one’s movement (external focus) has been shown to aid performance compared to directing attention to the movement itself (internal focus). This finding has been predominantly explained by an external focus promoting action planning and automatic movement control, while an internal focus acts to constrain movement (constrained action hypothesis [CAH]). In a separate line of research, the multiple control process model states that early movement phases involve anticipated and feedforward processes, while late movement phases explicitly incorporate external afferent information. We hypothesised that enhanced planning and automatic movement control would manifest from an external/distal focus compared to internal/proximal focus. The present study had participants execute fast and accurate movements to a single target using a digitizing graphics tablet that translated movements to a screen. Participants were instructed to focus on the end target location (external-distal), movement of the cursor (external-proximal), and movement of the limb (internal-proximal). It was found that the external-distal focus generated a shorter time to initiate and execute movements (indicating enhanced movement planning) compared to the external- and internal-proximal conditions. In addition, only the external proximal focus revealed a reduction in spatial variability between peak velocity and movement end (indicating greater online control). These findings indicate that advances in action planning and online control occur when adopting an external-distal focus. However, there were some benefits to online control when adopting an external-proximal focus. We propose that an external-distal focus promotes action-effect principles, where there is a greater contribution of anticipatory feedforward processes that limit the need for late online control.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Acta Psychologica. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Acta Psychologica, Vol 198, July 2019,
Keywords: attentional focus, constrained-action, early and late control, online, aiming
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: James Roberts
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2019 12:51
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2019 12:51

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