Optimizing External Focus of Attention Instructions: The Role of Attainability

PSU DPT faculty member Dr. Cheryl Coker, a motor behaviorist, recently published a paper entitled “Optimizing External Focus of Attention Instructions: The Role of Attainability” in the Journal of Motor Learning and Development, it is available including a free abstract at:

Coker, C. (2016). Optimizing External Focus of Attention Instructions: The Role of Attainability. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 4(1), 116-125. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2015-0024

The study examined whether individually tailoring an external focus reference point was associated with ability on standing long jump (SLJ) performance. Consistent with the literature, instructions with an external versus internal focus of attention resulted in significantly longer jumping distances and longer horizontal displacement.

figure-1-final“Results suggest that for goal-oriented movements that require maximum effort, individualizing the distance of an external focus of attention according to capability enhances its effect.”

When instructing patients, physical therapists should focus attention on the effects of their movements rather than internally on the part of the body performing the movement. Further, when a maximum effort is required, the use of an external reference at an attainable yet challenging distance goal may be beneficial.