FOCUSING ON A TARGET IMPROVES PERFORMANCE
Zachry, T., Wulf, G, Mercer, J. A., & Bezodis, N. (2005). Increased movement accuracy and reduced EMG activity in response to an external focus of attention. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(5), Supplement abstract 2042.
Ss performed basketball free throws under internal focus (wrist motion) and external focus (basket) conditions. EMG activity was recorded from the flexor carpi radialis, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and deltoid of the shooting arm.
Shooting accuracy was greater when Ss focused on the basket rather than the wrist. EMG activity in the biceps and triceps was lower with the internal than the external focus.
[This study used a very limited definition of internal and external focus. Usually in imagery, internal focus requires concentration on all aspects of the task, the feelings of the movements, the sounds heard, what will be seen through the athlete's eyes, etc. External focus is one of "watching a video of oneself" perform. These contrast with the independent variables used in this study that contrives a single element of focus. It is not unlike an older imagery study that showed pilots improved landings if they imaged what they will do (all the complete tasks) when looking at the runway on which they would land (Prather, D. C. (1973). Prompted mental practice as a flight simulator. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57, 353-355.) In this investigation, looking at the basket is equivalent to looking at the runway. Using labels, such as internal and external imagery, and then using a condition that is different from the common definition leads to confusion and does not clarify the area of investigation.]
Implication. Focusing on a target elevates performance and reduces the intensity of motor activity.
Return to Table of Contents for this issue.