Date of Award

1-1-2013

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Physical Education

First Advisor

Karen French

Abstract

Considerable research over the past decade has produced overwhelming evidence to support the motor learning advantage associated with an external focus of attention. Despite this robust finding, very few studies have investigated attentional focus effects with children. This is surprising given that considerable information processing differences exist between children and adults that have the potential to influence motor performance and learning. Therefore, two studies were conducted to determine the effect of attentional focus cues and feedback on motor learning in children. In the first study, 42 children ages 9 to 11 were recruited from an afterschool program and randomly assigned to one of three gender-stratified groups: (1) control, (2) internal focus, or (3) external focus. Following initial instructions and task demonstration, participants performed 100 modified free throws over two days while receiving additional cues respective to their attentional focus condition and returned approximately 48 hours later to perform 20 additional free throws. Results revealed no significant learning differences between groups. Although responses to retrospective verbal reports suggest that treatment manipulations were somewhat effective, aiming cues used by the control group and goal directed content used across groups could have potentially negated some treatment effects. In the second study, an additional 28 children ages 9-11 were recruited from the same afterschool program and randomly assigned to one of two gender-stratified groups: (1) internal focus feedback or (2) external focus feedback. The task and procedure were identical to the previous study with one exception. In lieu of attentional focus cues, participants received one of four feedback statements respective to their attentional focus condition following every third trial during practice. Results indicated a significant learning advantage for participants receiving external focus feedback. When compared to the first study, possible explanations for these findings include the external focus group's greater reported use of feedback and aiming content and the additional benefits of feedback over cues (e.g., frequency). Future research should continue to expand this body of literature to other tasks and age groups as well as investigate explanations regarding potential commonalities between mechanisms underlying aiming content (e.g., quiet eye) and attentional focus.

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