Forward thinking: When a distal external focus makes you faster

Stephen Banks (Lead Author), John Sproule, Peter Higgins, Gabriele Wulf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Studies have demonstrated a benefit to performance and learning of a distal relative to a proximal external focus of attention. That is, focusing on a movement effect that occurs at a greater distance from the body has been found to be more effective than concentrating on a movement effect closer to the body. The present study examined the distance effect in skilled kayakers performing an open, continuous skill. Participants (n = 27) performed a wild water racing sprint of 100 m on Class 2 water. Using a within-participants design, a distal external focus (“Focus on the finish”) was compared to a proximal external focus (“Focus on the paddle”) as well as to a control condition. The distal focus condition (30.63 s, SD = 3.21) resulted in significantly shorter sprint times than did the proximal (32.07 s, SD = 3.27) and the control (31.96 s, SD = 3.58) conditions (ps < 0.001). The effect size was large (ηp2 = 0.53). There was no significant difference between the proximal and control condition (p = 1.00). The findings demonstrate the importance of adopting a distal, rather than proximal, external focus for skilled athletes performing open, continuous skills under time pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102708
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Movement Science
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • attentional focus
  • kayaking
  • distance effect
  • open skill
  • continuous skill


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