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Looking beyond the binary: an extended paradigm for focus of attention in human motor performance

Abstract

Focus of attention (FOA) has been shown to affect human motor performance. Research into FOA has mainly posited it as either external or internal to-the-body (EFOA and IFOA, respectively). However, this binary paradigm overlooks the dynamic interactions among the individual, the task, and the environment, which are core to many disciplines, including dance. This paper reviews the comparative effects of EFOA and IFOA on human motor performance. Next, it identifies challenges within this EFOA–IFOA binary paradigm at the conceptual, definitional, and functional levels, which could lead to misinterpretation of research findings thus impeding current understanding of FOA. Building on these challenges and in effort to expand the current paradigm into a non-binary one, it offers an additional FOA category—dynamic interactive FOA—which highlights the dynamic interactions existing between EFOA and IFOA. Mental imagery is then proposed as a suitable approach for separately studying the different FOA subtypes. Lastly, clinical and research applications of a dynamic interactive FOA perspective for a wide range of domains, from motor rehabilitation to sports and dance performance enhancement, are discussed.

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adapted from Maravita et al. 2002, 2004)

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Eric Franklin (Fig. 4), Madison Christian (Figs. 1 and 2), and Audrey Enghauser (Fig. 3) for their contribution to this paper.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Gose.

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Gose, R., Abraham, A. Looking beyond the binary: an extended paradigm for focus of attention in human motor performance. Exp Brain Res 239, 1687–1699 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-021-06126-4

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Keywords

  • Focus of attention
  • Motor performance
  • Mental imagery
  • Dynamic neuro-cognitive imagery
  • Dance