Athletics and attention: Bi-directional influences in the lab and on the field
Selectively attending to some information while ignoring other information is crucial for athletic success. Active participation in athletics is also beneficial when attention is measured in the laboratory. This review examines this bi-directional relationship between athletics and attention. The introduction orients readers to the concept of selective visual attention. In the following section we review the evidence that athletic participation influences performance on laboratory measures of visual attention, including tasks of spatial orienting, spatial shifting, attention distribution, temporal sequencing, and the control of action. In the third section we review how attention measures are influenced by contextual factors that are also known to influence athletic performance. These include behavioral practices like exercise, sleep, and hydration; environmental factors like thermal stress, competition, and distraction; and individual differences in personality, age, and gender. In the next section we situate all this empirical evidence in the evolving theoretical understanding of attention in the cognitive sciences over the past five decades. In doing so, it becomes clear that research on athletics is an important database to consider when developing models of attention. By bringing these literatures together, a stronger theoretical foundation is sought that may contribute positively to research on both optimal athletic performance and framework development in attention.
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