12. Attentional control

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  • Attentional control
    • Relates to the extent to which a performer can focus awareness onto the environmental stimuli that are most relevant
    • Focusing this awareness onto relevant stimuli involves concentration
    • The capacity to maintain attentional focus until the skill has been complete indicates the length of the attention span
    • Selective attention can be directed by external factors such as stimulus intensity and the presence of warning cues
    • The most important determinants of attention here are cognition and arousal
      • Cognition is the mental processes involved in acquiring knowledge, learning and understanding
      • Arousal is a level of excitement or activation that is generated by the CNS
    • Inverted U theory
      • Predicts the influence of arousal on the performance of a motor skill
      • Predicts that as arousal increases so does the quality of performance of motor skills
      • This performance increase only occurs up to a point of otimal arousal
      • After the point of optimal arousal, the quality of performance begins to decrease
    • Cue utilisation hypothesis
      • When arousal is low, the perceptual field of the performer widens excessively and access is given to a broad range of environmental irrelevant cues
      • Decision making is impeded by an overload of stimuli and therefore, the quality of performance is low
      • As arousal increases up to a point, the perceptual field will narrow. This allows attention to be given to the most relevant and important cues. At this point, selective attention is fully operational
        • The capacity to focus selectively is termed cue utilisation
      • If arousal increases above the optimal threshold, perceptual focus narrows excessively. This causes relevant data to be missed as the information processing system becomes restricted
        • Under these conditions, the performer starts to panic. When arousal becomes extremely high, they will experience a total disorientation of their senses (hypervigilence)
      • Cue utilisation does not make clear how to performer can adjust the width and direction of attention
    • Attentional control
      • NIDEFFER
      • He presented a model of attentional styles which focuses on 2 dimenions
        • 1. width of attention (broad and narrow focus)
        • 2. direction of attention (external and internal focus)
      • Width of attention
        • Broad attention takes in a great deal of information
        • Narrow attention indicated focus which is specific to only a small number of stimuli
      • Direction of attention
        • An external focus is an outward projection onto an environmental stimulus
        • An internal focus indicates that the performer's attention has been directed inwards and onto the psychological state
      • The model of attentional control predicts that attention has many effects on individual sports performance
      • External focus like that on the position of opposition  can help as a distraction from physical pain or fatigue
        • Novice performers tend to use external focus to dissociate from unpleasant physical sensation
      • Internal focus directs attention onto the psychological and physiological condition
        • Expert performers  often use internal focus as it helps to maximise concentration and control anxiety by providing feedback
      • Optimal performance can only be achieved if the performer has the ability to adopt the attention style that matches the attentional demands of the situation
      • The correct attention style is essential at all times
      • Effective attention will prevent negative feelings and enable the performer to make positive attributions during performance
      • A good performer can draw upon the full range of attention styles and this shows a link between cue utilisation and attentional control
      • Optimal arousal and cue utilisation help a performer to shift their attention style to match the attentional demands of the situation


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