Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Do Static-Sport Athletes and Dynamic-Sport Athletes Differ in Their Visual Focused Attention?

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Do Static-Sport Athletes and Dynamic-Sport Athletes Differ in Their Visual Focused Attention?

Article excerpt

Introduction

The study reported here was motivated by recent calls within the applied field of sport psychology for a broad diagnostic framework in the domain of talent selection (7,35) as well as the ongoing evaluation for professional standards of the techniques that are used by practicing sport psychologists (14).

An increasing number of researchers have argued that psychological variables remain often unnoticed within talent identification models (1). However, among a range of other physical and technical variables, psychological variables have been identified as a significant predictor of success (18,27,34). For instance, during athletic performance attention is seen as one of the most important psychological skills underlying success because of the ability to exert mental effort effectively is vital for optimal athletic performance (12,22,27).

In cognitive psychology, attention is seen as a multidimensional construct. According to different taxonomies of attention, at least three distinct dimensions of attention have been identified (21,28,39). The first is selectivity. It includes selective attention as well as divided attention. The second dimension of attention refers to the aspect of intensity, which can include alertness and sustained attention. The third dimension is capacity and refers to the fact that controlled processing is limited to the amount of information that can be processed at one time.

Individuals' attentional performance in one or more of the aforementioned dimensions can be assessed in several ways (3, for an overview see 39). The selectivity aspect can, for instance, be approached with tasks involving either focused or divided attention. In focused attention tasks there are usually irrelevant stimuli, which must be ignored. In divided attention tasks, all stimuli are relevant, but may come from different sources and require different responses (39). Intensity requirements can be approached with tasks involving different degrees of difficulty, or with tasks that have to be carried out over longer periods of time. Finally, dual-task procedures, memory span tests, or other processing tasks are used to approach the capacity aspect (26). Practicing sport psychologists most often use standardized tests, which are easily administered in a paper-pencil form and therefore are easy to use in the field.

However, several authors (38) as well as diagnosticians in youth talent diagnostic centers in Germany have expressed a number of subjective impressions concerning the performance of athletes on attention tests (e.g., influence of sport type, test context, or expertise level) that are insufficiently indicated by the existing test norms. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to examine the influence of two essential factors (sport type and environmental context) on athlete's performance in two different attention tests.

Boutcher's multilevel approach (3) integrates relevant aspects of research and theory on attention from different perspectives. In his framework, internal as well as external factors, like enduring dispositions, demands of the task, and environmental factors, interact with attentional processes during performance. These factors are thought to initially influence the level of physiological arousal of the individual, which in turn influences controlled and automatic processing. When performing a task, the individual either uses controlled processing, automatic processing, or both, depending on the nature and the demands of the task. An optimal attentional state can be achieved by reaching or attaining the exact balance between automatic and controlled processing, essential for a particular task (3).

A sudden external distraction (e.g., auditory noise) is expected to hamper performance because it may disrupt the current attentional state by causing the individual to reach a level of arousal such that an imbalance in controlled and automatic processing occurs. …

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