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Brain Res Bull. 2005 Oct 30;67(4):304-9.

Increased movement accuracy and reduced EMG activity as the result of adopting an external focus of attention.

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1
Department of Kinesiology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 89154-3034, USA.

Abstract

The performance and learning of motor skills has been shown to be enhanced if the performer adopts an external focus of attention (focus on the movement effect) compared to an internal focus (focus on the movements themselves) [G. Wulf, W. Prinz, Directing attention to movement effects enhances learning: a review, Psychon. Bull. Rev. 8 (2001) 648-660]. While most previous studies examining attentional focus effects have exclusively used performance outcome (e.g., accuracy) measures, in the present study electromyography (EMG) was used to determine neuromuscular correlates of external versus internal focus differences in movement outcome. Participants performed basketball free throws under both internal focus (wrist motion) and external focus (basket) conditions. EMG activity was recorded for m. flexor carpi radialis, m. biceps brachii, m. triceps triceps brachii, and m. deltoid of each participant's shooting arm. The results showed that free throw accuracy was greater when participants adopted an external compared to an internal focus. In addition, EMG activity of the biceps and triceps muscles was lower with an external relative to an internal focus. This suggests that an external focus of attention enhances movement economy, and presumably reduces "noise" in the motor system that hampers fine movement control and makes the outcome of the movement less reliable.

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