The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action preface

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Objection 2: The skill-related supplementary task may be more distracting for those who are faster at perfuming a task or who are better at focusing on their movements.
The more experienced soccer players are faster at the dribbling task than the less experienced players, and because they are faster at completing the slalom course, they have to look back further when the tone is sounded. This in part could account for why the more highly skilled participants do worse in the skill-related task than in the skill-unrelated task, and why this is not the case with the less-skilled soccer players. However, although all of the varied-focus experiments involve reporting on one’s focus, not all involve reporting on what might be a past focus. For example, in one experiment, participants swinging at a virtual baseball are requested to report at the sound of a tone whether their bats are moving up or down at that moment (Castaneda and Gray, 2007). But it still might be that the quicker you can perform such a task, the more distracting it is to report on your movement.

Furthermore, it could be that experts are simply better at focusing on their own movements; that is, it could be that because experts know how to direct their minds to their bodies while in action and can do it with a vengeance the request to focus on an aspect of their movement that normally would not call for focus (or would not be the only thing that calls for focus) will be more distracting for experts than for novices. For example, if recalling which side of the foot was most recently in contact with the ball is not relevant to their skill, this focus may interfere with their performance more than with novices’ performance, as novices are not able to monitor these details of their movements as well. And it could even be that since novices have not developed the ability to focus on their movements, even the skill-related supplementary task focus helps them to develop such focus, which thereby helps their performance.

Beyond this, if we assume both that some type of bodily-focus is beneficial at high-levels of performance and that distractions that closer to or similar to what you aim to focus on impede performance more than distractions that are dissimilar to your intended focus (like how identifying randomly generated numbers might interfere with computing tasks more than identifying randomly generated letters) the skill-related supplementary task may have degraded the more skilled participants’ performance more than the skill-unrelated supplementary task since the skill-related task induces a type of focus that may be close to, but not the same as the type of focus that more highly-skilled players have found beneficial. That is, because the skill-related supplementary task brings about a type of focus that is close to but not exactly the type of focus that is most beneficial (which, we’re assuming is another type of skill-focus), it distracts experts more than the skill-unrelated task. Again, for novices, who may not have developed this important aspect of skill, there is nothing to be distracted from, and any improvements (some studies, such as….. document slight improvements) could be explained in terms of the request to monitor their feet: for example, simply helping them to develop this important type of focus.

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