Attentional focus on suprapostural tasks affects balance learning

Q J Exp Psychol A. 2003 Oct;56(7):1191-211. doi: 10.1080/02724980343000062.


We examined whether the attentional focus induced by a suprapostural task has an influence on the learning of a dynamic balance task. Participants balanced on a stabilometer and were required to hold a tube horizontal with both hands. In Experiment 1, the tube contained a table tennis ball, whereas it was empty in Experiment 2. Participants were instructed to focus on either their hands (internal focus) or the tube (external focus). We measured balance performance as a function of attentional focus on the suprapostural task. Participants practised for 2 days, and on Day 3 they performed a retention test (with tube) and a transfer test (without tube). In both experiments, the external focus groups demonstrated more effective retention and transfer than the internal focus groups (and than the control group in transfer in Experiment 2). In addition, in Experiment 1 the external group was superior in keeping the tube horizontal. This suggests that the performer's attentional focus regarding the suprapostural task affects performance and learning not only of the suprapostural task itself, but also of the postural task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Transfer, Psychology