An external focus of attention is a condition sine qua non for athletes: A response to Carson and Collins

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In this invited response to a Letter to the Editor by Carson, Collins, and Toner (2015), I comment on various issues raised by the authors. I highlight the broad range of tasks and dependent measures used in studies comparing the effectiveness of external versus internal foci of attention. These studies – many of which involved sport skills – have consistently found performance or learning benefits when an external focus was adopted. There is no convincing evidence that performers’ preferences, or their familiarity with a certain focus, have a moderating effect. Anecdotal evidence reported by coaches who have compared the two types of foci is consistent with research findings. An external focus presumably promotes functional connectivity and contributes to goal-action coupling.

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