A meta-analysis on immediate effects of attentional focus on motor tasks performance

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Directing the attentional focus towards intended movement effects could enhance individual performance. This meta-analysis examines the immediate effects of an instructed external (proximal/distal) and internal attentional focus on an experimental group and a control group on their performance. A systematic review was done following the PRISMA guidelines. A total of 3833 reports were scanned. Of these, 83 were included in the systematic review, and 61 studies were included into the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis was additionally split into the original categories, which included the instructions as mentioned in the paper, and the adapted classifications, for which the instructions were reclassified based on the definition by [Wulf, G. (2013). Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years. International Review of sport and Exercise psychology, 6(1), 77–104. doii:10.1080/1750984X.2012.723728 and 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. doii:10.1007/s00426-002-0093-6]. In line with the constrained-action hypothesis, an external attentional focus instruction enhanced the immediate performance compared to an internal attentional focus instruction (SMDadapted = 0.24) and the control group (SMDadapted SMD = 0.31). Also, consistent with the constrained-action hypothesis, distal external attentional focus instructions showed performance-enhancing effects compared to proximal external attentional focus instructions (SMDadapted = 0.23). However, most comparisons showed moderate to substantial heterogeneity and wide prediction intervals. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized for all tasks and skill levels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 22.04.2022

Research areas and keywords

  • Attentional focus
  • external focus
  • immediate performance
  • instruction
  • internal focus