Switching attentional focus across internal and external cues improves performance in a rowing task in novices

David L. Neumann, Ashleigh Olive, Robyn L. Moffitt, Tim Piatkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Performance in skill-based and endurance sports can be enhanced when an individual directs attention toward internal or external cues. However, there might be advantages in attending to specific cues at different times during a continuous sport task. The present study examined the effects of switching attention between internal and external cues when rowing. Novice rowers (N = 27) completed three 2000 m rows while focusing attention on internal cues only, external cues only, or switching between internal and external cues. Overall performance, as measured by time and power output, was best in the switching condition. Measurements of heart rate and perceived exertion were not significantly different between switching and external conditions, suggesting that these performance improvements occurred without producing significant subjective or objective physiologic change. However, a focus on external cues resulted in lower ratings of perceived exertion relative to a focus on internal cues. Self-reported motivation did not differ between conditions. Although instructions to focus internally or externally can influence performance on aerobic tasks, switching attention between these cues may enhance performance. Athletes should consider attending to various cues in rowing and, by extension, in other endurance sports.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102195
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online dateApr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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