Influence of attentional focus distance on motor learning of skilled children
Keywords:motor learning, attentional focus, distance effect, children, soccer, childhood
In adults, longitudinal external focus benefits the motor performance of high-skilled performers. While low-skilled performers benefit from a proximal external focus. Children seem to respond differently to adults regarding the effects of attentional focus on motor learning, and the cause of this difference remains unclear. The present study investigated the effects of the attentional focus distance on motor performance and learning of high-skilled children. Forty-five 8-years-old high-skilled children were divided into three groups with different attentional focus distances (internal, proximal external and distal external). All participants practiced an inside-of-the-foot kick soccer task in 5 blocks of 10 trials. Motor performance was assessed through absolute and variable errors before the practice (pre-test), immediately after the practice (post-test), and after 24-hours (retention test). As inferential analyses, we run an ANOVA two-way (3 groups x 3 times) for absolute and variable errors. For absolute error, there was an effect in time (p < .0001), with improvement across practice and retention; also, the distal external group demonstrated lower absolute error than other groups (p < .0001). In contrast, proximal external focus provides a lower variability inter-trials (but with a lower score) (p < .001). Our findings suggested that distal external attentional focus benefits motor performance and learning of skilled children. Practice and experience are the predominant factors in this interaction, as it happens in adults. Childhood characteristics seem not to influence this process.
Abdollahipour, R., Land, W. M., Cereser, A., & Chiviacowsky, S. (2020). External relative to internal attentional focus enhances motor performance and learning in visually impaired individuals. Disability and Rehabilitation, 42(18), 2621–2630. https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2019.1566408
Bell, J. J., & Hardy, J. (2009). Effects of attentional focus on skilled performance in Golf. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(2), 163–177. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200902795323
Brocken, J. E. A., Kal, E. C., & van der Kamp, J. (2016). Focus of Attention in Children’s Motor Learning: Examining the Role of Age and Working Memory. Journal of Motor Behavior, 48(6), 527–534. https://doi.org/10.1080/00222895.2016.1152224
De Giorgio, A., Sellami, M., Kuvacic, G., Lawrence, G., Padulo, J., Mingardi, M., & Mainolfi, L. (2018). Enhancing motor learning of young soccer players through preventing an internal focus of attention: The effect of shoes colour. PLOS ONE, 13(8), e0200689. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200689
Emanuel, M., Jarus, T., & Bart, O. (2008). Effect of focus of attention and age on motor acquisition, retention, and transfer: a randomized trial. Physical Therapy, 88(2), 251–260. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20060174
Kearney, P. E. (2015). A distal focus of attention leads to superior performance on a golf putting task. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13(4), 371–381. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2014.993682
Krajenbrink, H., van Abswoude, F., Vermeulen, S., van Cappellen, S., & Steenbergen, B. (2018). Motor learning and movement automatization in typically developing children: The role of instructions with an external or internal focus of attention. Human Movement Science, 60(January), 183–190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2018.06.010
Magill, R. A., & Anderson, D. I. (2017). Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
McKay, B., & Wulf, G. (2012). A distal external focus enhances novice dart throwing performance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10(2), 149–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/1612197X.2012.682356
McNevin, N. H., Shea, C. H., & Wulf, G. (2003). Increasing the distance of an external focus of attention enhances learning. Psychological Research, 67(1), 22–29. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823f275c
Olivier, I., Palluel, E., & Nougier, V. (2008). Effects of attentional focus on postural sway in children and adults. Experimental Brain Research, 185(2), 341–345. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-008-1271-6
Palmer, K. K., Matsuyama, A. L., Irwin, J. M., Porter, J. M., & Robinson, L. E. (2017). The effect of attentional focus cues on object control performance in elementary children. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 22(6), 580–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2017.1294667
Porter, J. M., Anton, P. M., & Wu, W. F. W. (2012). Increasing the distance of an external focus of attention enhances standing long jump performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(9), 2389–2393. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823f275c
Schmidt, R. A., Lee, T. D., Winstein, C. J., Wulf, G., & Zelaznik, H. N. (2019). Motor Control and Learning: A Behavioral Emphasis (6th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Teixeira, M., Lessa, H. T., Chiviacowsky, S., & Ph, D. (2017). Learning of a Classical Ballet Pirouette. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 21(4), 179–185.
van Abswoude, F., Nuijen, N. B., van der Kamp, J., & Steenbergen, B. (2018). Individual Differences Influencing Immediate Effects of Internal and External Focus Instructions on Children’s Motor Performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 89(2), 190–199. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2018.1442915
Wulf, G. (2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: a review of 15 years. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6(1), 77–104. https://doi.org/10.1080/1750984X.2012.723728
Wulf, G., Chiviacowsky, S., Schiller, E., & Ávila, L. T. G. (2010). Frequent external-focus feedback enhances motor learning. Frontiers in Psychology, 1(NOV), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00190
Wulf, G., & Lewthwaite, R. (2020). Optimizing Attentional Focus. In G. Tenenbaum & Robert C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (pp. 651–665). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119568124.ch31
Wulf, G., McNevin, N., & Shea, C. H. (2001). The automaticity of complex motor skill learning as a function of attentional focus. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 54(4), 1143–1154. https://doi.org/10.1080/713756012
Wulf, G., Shea, C., & Park, J.-H. (2001). Attention and Motor Performance: Preferences for and Advantages of an External Focus. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 72(4), 335–344. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2001.10608970
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.This journal is covered under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). The rights of printing and reproduction by any way and means are the property of the European Journal of Human Movement, and by extension of each one of the authors of the articles.