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ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Information Processing, Memory Systems

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Sport Psychology (PSY407)
LESSON 12
ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT
According to William James (1890), attention is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of
one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. It Implies withdrawal from
some things in order to deal effectively with others. In sport, nothing can be more important than paying
attention to the object at hand. Sport psychologists have recognized the importance of attention, and that it can
be very complex. This topic consists of ten important concepts; first five will be discussed in this lecture, and
the remaining in lecture thirteen.
Important concepts include the following:
1.
Information processing
2.
Memory systems
3.
Measuring information
4.
Selective attention
5.
Information processing capacity
6.
Attentional narrowing
7.
Being in the zone
8.
Measuring attentional focus
9.
Attention control training
10.
Associative versus dissociative attentional styles.
Information Processing
There are two basic approaches to explaining behavior. The first and probably better understood is the
behavioral, or stimulus-response approach. In this way of looking at things, the world is explained through a
series of stimulus-response (S-R) connections. With animals this approach has been extremely successful, but
for human beings it seems too simplistic. There seems to be more to human behavior than the simple act of
strengthening the bond between a stimulus and a response. Certainly, a great deal goes on in the brain between
the time that a stimulus is given and the time that a response in initiated. This notion is accepted by the
cognitive psychologists and is referred to as the information processing model of behavior. The information
processing model contains a stimulus and a response, but a large number of mental operations occur between
the two. For a person to experience a stimulus and respond to at a later time, there must be a memory storage
capacity. That is, the person must have a memory, or place to save important information. Once the
information has been saved, the person must be able to reactivate or retrieve it. Retrieval enables us to use the
information to make decisions about forthcoming responses. This is information processing in action, and it
takes place constantly on the athletic field.
Memory Systems
There are three basic memory systems:
Sensory information store
Short-Term Memory (STM)
Long-Term Memory (LTM)
Sensory Information Store
The first stage in the human memory system, sometimes called sensory register. This storage system is capable
of holding large amounts of sensory information for a brief amount of time before most of it is lost.
Information is thought to remain in the sensory register for up to one-half second before it is either lost or
transferred to a more permanent storage system.
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Sport Psychology (PSY407)
Short-Term Memory (STM)
The short term memory (STM) is the center, or crossroads, of activity in the information processing
system. Information comes into STM for rehearsal from both sensory store and permanent memory.
Information that comes into STM from the sensory store is often new or original information. If we do
not rehearse and memorize it quickly, we will likely forget it. For example, when one gets a new
telephone number, he tends to repeat it several times to remember it. The quality of rehearsal
determines whether or not information in STM is passed on to long-term memory. The absolute
capacity of short-term memory is relatively limited, for example, it would be difficult for an average
person to retain more than seven separate words or numbers in STM at one time.
Long-Term Memory (LTM)
Whereas information in short-term memory is present for only a brief period of time, information in
long-term memory (LTM) is relatively permanent. Once information is stored in LTM, it is theoretically
permanent. Information in LTM can be continually upgraded, reorganized, and strengthened. New
information can also be added to LTM.
Measuring Information
Psychologists can measure the amount of information that is conveyed by a particular problem or task.
The amount of information conveyed or transmitted by a particular problem is measured in bits of
information, (short for "binary digit"). The more bits of information conveyed the more difficult the
problem being presented.
There is a clear relationship between an athlete's skill and information conveyed. As skill increases,
information conveyed increase. The more information conveyed by an offensive player, the more
difficult it is going to be for the defensive player to respond. Applying this principle in the game of
cricket, a highly skilled bowler will be conveying more information and making it difficult for the
batsman to respond.
Selective Attention
Selective attention is the ability to gate out, or ignore, irrelevant sensory information, and to pay
attention to relevant information. Each of us has experienced the feeling of over stimulation that can
result in an inability to concentrate. If it were not for our ability to concentrate on one or two relevant
items at a time, we simply could not function. The ability to selectively attend to appropriate stimuli is
critical in most athletic situations. In basketball, an athlete must concentrate on the basket while
shooting a free throw rather than being distracted by the noise from the crowd. In cricket, an athlete
facing the bowler must concentrate on ball instead of being distracted by thoughts of a previous play.
Some athletes are better than others at selectively attending to important cues. This is one difference
between the good athlete and the outstanding athlete.
For highly trained and skilled athletes, the process of selective attention is very efficient. When skilled
basketball players step up to the free throw line, they refuse to allow anyone or anything besides the
task at hand to capture their attention. Coaches refer to this process as "concentration". However,
some athletes never so learn how to cope with distraction. Every little thing distracts them, or they
concentrate on wrong things.
Limited Information Processing Capacity
An alternative approach to studying attention is to view it in terms of information processing capacity,
or space. We have the capacity to attend to more than one thing at a time. For example, a person
driving
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Sport Psychology (PSY407)
a car can listen to music, steer the car, and shift gears all at the same time. If a specific task requires all of the
information processing space, than that specific task is selectively attended to at the expense of all others. If a
specific task does not require all of the available space, then more than one task can be attended to at one time,
depending upon the attentional demands of the second task. this is called the capacity model of selective
attention.
In the capacity model of attention, more than one piece of input can be attended to at one time and more than
one response can be made at one time, if the demands on available space are not too severe.
Wrisberg and Shea (1978) demonstrated through the use of the reaction time probe that the attentional
demands of a motor act decrease as learning increases. In other words as a motor act becomes automatic or
learned, the demands on the limited information processing capacity of the athlete decrease, and the athlete can
attend to other cues. Reaction time probe is a technique used in attention research to determine if a certain
primary task requires information processing space.
An important factor that should be considered is the notion of individual differences (Keele & Hawkins, 1982).
No two individuals are alike in terms of the amount of attention required to deal with more than one task at a
time. Therefore, one should not assume that two athletes possessing an equal amount of playing experience will
perform the same when confronted with a multiple-task problem. One athlete might experience some difficulty
in performing tasks A and B together, but perform task B and C flawlessly. On the other hand, a second athlete
might experience difficulty performing tasks B and C together, but experience no difficulty with tasks A and B
together.
References
Cox, H. Richard. (2002). Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications. (Fifth Edition). New York: McGraw-
Hill Companies
Lavallec. D., Kremer, J., Moran, A., & Williams. M. (2004) Sports Psychology: Contemporary Themes. New
York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers
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Table of Contents:
  1. SPORT PSYCHOLOGY DEFINED:Issue of Certification, The Research Sport Psychologist
  2. SELF-CONFIDENCE AND SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Successful Performance, Verbal persuasion
  3. SELECTING SELF-TALK STATEMENTS:Skill accusation, Controlling effort
  4. GOAL ORIENTATION:Goal Involvement, Motivational Climate
  5. CAUSAL ATTRIBUTION IN SPORT:Fritz Heiderís Contribution, Other Considerations
  6. CAUSAL ATTRIBUTIONS IN COMPETITIVE SITUATIONS:Locus of Causality
  7. MOTIVATION IN SPORT:Social Factors, Success and Failure, Coachesí Behavior
  8. FLOW: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE, Goal Setting in Sport
  9. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING:Clearly identify time constraints
  10. A TEAM APPROACH TO SETTING GOALS:The Planning Phase, The Meeting Phase
  11. YOUTH SPORT:Distress and anxiety, Coach-Parent Relationships
  12. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Information Processing, Memory Systems
  13. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Measuring Attentional Focus
  14. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Personality Defined, Psychodynamic Theory
  15. THE MEASUREMENT OF PERSONALITY:Projective Procedures, Structured Questionnaire
  16. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Athletic Motivation Inventory, Personality Sport Type
  17. SITUATIONAL FACTORS RELATED TO ANXIETY AND MOOD:Type of Sport
  18. ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS:Emotion and Mood
  19. ANXIETY, AROUSAL, AND STRESS RELATIONSHIPS:The Inverted-U Theory
  20. ALTERNATIVES TO INVERTED-U THEORY:Apterís Reversal Theory
  21. COPING STRATEGIES IN SPORT:Measurement of Coping Skill
  22. RELAXATION STRATEGIES FOR SPORT:Progressive Relaxation, Autogenic Training
  23. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Team Energizing Strategies, Fan Support
  24. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Precompetition Workout, Individual Goal Setting
  25. IMAGERY:Skill Level of the Athletes, Time Factors and Mental Practice
  26. IMAGERY:Symbolic Learning Theory, Imagery Perspective. Sensory Mode
  27. IMAGERY:Paivioís Two-Dimensional Model, Developing Imagery Skills
  28. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Defining Hypnosis, Social-Cognitive Theory
  29. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Achieving the Hypnotic Trance, Hypnotic Phase
  30. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Psychological Skills Training Program
  31. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Performance profiling, Performance routines
  32. ETHICS IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Competence, Integrity, Social Responsibility
  33. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:Defining Aggression, Catharsis hypothesis
  34. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:The Catharsis Effect, Fan Violence
  35. AUDIENCE AND CROWD EFFECTS IN SPORTS:Social Facilitation, Crowd Hostility
  36. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Measurement of Team Cohesion
  37. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Predicting Future Participation, Team Building
  38. LEADERSHIP IN SPORT:Fiedlerís Contingency Theory, Coach-Athlete Compatibility
  39. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Special Populations, Clinical Patients
  40. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Social Interaction Hypothesis, Amine Hypothesis
  41. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:The Theory of Planned Behavior, Social Cognitive Theory
  42. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Exercise Addiction, Bulimia Nervosa, Muscle Dysmorphia
  43. BURNOUT IN ATHLETES:Overtraining and Overreaching, Recommended Intervention
  44. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ATHLETIC INJURIES:Personality Factors, Coping Resources
  45. DRUG ABUSE IN SPORT AND EXERCISE:Stimulants, Depressants