Implications of dual-process theories for optimizing motor learning and performance

Keith R. Lohse, Shaw L. Ketels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter reviews research on the role of attention in skilled performance, specifically in athletic skills, the neurological mechanisms that might underlie the effects of attention, and their relation to dual-process theories more generally. Several threads of research in motor learning and control suggest that directing attention to explicitly control movement parameters hinders the learning and execution of motor skills. (1) Directing attention to movement effects improves performance relative to focusing explicitly on the movement itself (e.g., Lohse, Wulf and Lewthwaite, 2012; Wulf, 2007) and (2) increased explicit monitoring leads to choking under pressure (e.g., Beilock and Carr, 2001). Dual-process models of cognition make a similar distinction and show that more complex or time limited tasks often benefit from implicit cognition, which is less articulable but also less capacity limited than explicit cognition, but only when the underlying representations are robust. With respect to human performance, dual-process accounts of cognition support findings from the motor performance domain, and help elucidate underlying mechanisms. These related fields of research are becoming more and more integrated as we advance our understanding of the role of explicit attention and implicit control in motor performance. Although the mechanisms underlying these different effects are not fully understood, studies of motor control provide many reference points suggesting a critical role for attention in skilled performance. Paradoxically, it seems that "paying more attention" can actually be detrimental to athletic performance. Recent evidence suggests that explicitly attending to one's body mechanics leads to less effective movement outcomes, less efficient movement patterns, and often results from increased pressure to perform.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Performance and Defeat
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9781619428270
StatePublished - 2012


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