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Ryan Kasper, James Elliott, Barry Giesbrecht; Individual differences in attentional orienting predict performance outcomes during learning of a new athletic skill. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):265. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.7.265.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Dynamic performance of many athletic motor skills requires rapid orienting of visual attention. For example, previous studies have shown that young, high skill-level hockey players have smaller response time differences between validly and invalidly cued locations in standard spatial cueing tasks compared to low skill-level hockey players (Enns & Richards, 1997). One interpretation of these results is that high-skill individuals are more efficient in deploying spatial attention over multiple locations. However, it is unclear if this effect was brought about by experience in performing the skill, or if individual differences in attentional orienting facilitated development of the skill itself. Here, we tested whether individual differences in attentional orienting predicted success during learning of a new athletic skill. Eighteen novices with no previous golf experience learned to putt a golf ball to targets placed at variable distances. Individual differences in attentional orienting were measured using a variant of the attention network task (Fan et al, 2002) in which a predictive number cue presented at fixation indicated the likely location of a target. The RT difference between invalid and valid trials was used to index volitional orienting. A median split of the orienting scores divided the group into those with small orienting scores and those with large orienting scores. The results indicated that individuals with lower orienting scores had significantly higher accuracy during the early stages of learning in the putting task (p<.004). Additional analyses revealed that the orienting score was predictive of whether the individuals would achieve a pre-determined performance criterion (r=0.69, p<0.03). These results converge with previous findings indicating that during athletic performance, high-skill individuals are potentially more efficient at orienting attention than low-skill individuals. In addition, our findings demonstrate that individual differences in the orienting of visual attention may be predictive of subsequent performance in a novel athletic skill.
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