The locus of focus: the effect of switching from a preferred to a non-preferred focus of attention

J Sports Sci. 2008 Aug;26(10):1049-57. doi: 10.1080/02640410802098874.


Focusing strategies are known to play a significant role in motor performance, with individuals who use an internal focus on body movement typically showing poorer outcomes than those who focus on features of the external environment. Focus of attention and switching of one's focus are examined in the context of two different complex motor skills along with a factor not previously examined systematically, individual preference. In both experiments, participants were introduced to focusing strategies that might be employed when attempting a sensorimotor task. Explanations of both strategies were given to participants. Specifically, for an internal focus, participants were instructed to concentrate on their body movements, while for an external focus, they were instructed to focus on aspects in the environment. They were then asked which strategy they preferred. Participants then continued either with their preferred focus or were instructed to switch to their non-preferred focus. The advantage that the external focus typically enjoys turns out not to be a simple one and interacts with individual preference and with the "forced-opposite" manipulation. Our results support the growing consensus that encouraging individuals to adopt an internal focusing strategy is counterproductive in complex sensorimotor tasks. They also suggest that individual preferences play a role.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention*
  • Basketball / psychology
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult