Translating Thoughts Into Action: Optimizing Motor Performance and Learning Through Brief Motivational and Attentional Influences

Gabriele Wulf, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Rebecca Lewthwaite, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center


Skilled motor performance is essential in sports, the performing arts, various occupations, and many daily activities. Scientists and practitioners alike are therefore interested in understanding the conditions that influence the performance and learning of movement skills, and how they can be utilized to optimize training. In OPTIMAL theory, three motivational and attentional factors are key: enhanced expectancies for future performance, the performer’s autonomy, and an external focus of attention. We review recent evidence suggesting that each factor contributes independently to strengthen the coupling of goals to actions. This work has implications ranging from fostering more effective skill development in novice learners, to increasing the efficiency of athletes’ and musicians’ performance, and to facilitating the success of patients in regaining functional capabilities.