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Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Jul;19(6):824-833. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1560508. Epub 2018 Dec 27.

An external focus of attention promotes flow experience during simulated driving.

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a School of Sport and Health Sciences , University of Exeter , Exeter , UK.


Achieving a state of flow is associated with positive experiences and improved sporting performance (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Focused attention is a fundamental component of the flow experience, but to date there has been little investigation of whether attention plays a causal role in creating flow, or is a product of it. Consequently, this study aimed to test the effect of an attentional focus manipulation on flow and performance in a simulated driving task. It was predicted that an external focus would lead to improved visuomotor control, greater flow experience and improved performance. Thirty-three participants from a student population completed the driving task under both internal and external focus instructions. Eye movements and steering wheel movements were recorded during each race. Participants reported greater flow experience (p < .001, d = 1.78) and enhanced outcome expectancies (p = .02, d = 0.41) under external, compared to internal focus conditions, however, there was no effect on visuomotor control (gaze-steering coordination and steering entropy) or racing performance (ps > 0.28). These findings suggest that adopting an external focus of attention may contribute to positive performance states such as flow.


The zone; attentional focus; coordination; eye tracking; outcome expectancies; peak performance

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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