Differences in self-efficacy and performance as a result of attentional focus in a continuous running task


Although self-efficacy and performance are typically studied as a relationship within continuous sport tasks (i.e., LaForge-MacKenzie & Sullivan, 2014a, 2014b), the complex and multifaceted nature of this relationship may result in differential effects of sociocognitive factors (e.g., attention) on self-efficacy and performance as separate constructs (Sitzmann & Yeo, 2013). The purpose of the study was to examine self-efficacy and performance separately under three conditions of attentional focus. Participants ran continuously on an indoor track for one kilometer in one of three conditions: internal-focus (n = 51), external-focus (n = 50), and control (n = 49). Self-efficacy was assessed simulatanously as performance using a one-item measure every 200 meters. One-way ANOVAs revealed significant differences in running performance at the start (F (2, 147) = 3.86, p < .05) and end of the task (F (2, 147) = 3.56, p < .05). The control group ran faster than the internal-focus group at the start of the task and faster than the external-focus group at the end of the task. Self-efficacy showed significant differences late in the task [Self-Efficacy 4: (F (2, 147) = 3.21, p < .05); Self-Efficacy 5: (F (2, 147) = 4.74, p < .05)], with the internal-focus condition having higher self-efficacy than the external-focus condition. These findings support suggestions that attention may shift throughout sport tasks (i.e., Schücker, Anheier, Hagemann, Strauss, & Völker, 2013), becoming increasingly internally focused as the intensity of continuous endurance tasks progress (i.e., Lima-Silva, Silva-Cavalcante, Pires, Bertuzzi, Oliveira, & Bishop, 2012). As such, an internal focus of attention may be beneficial to both self-efficacy and performance late in a running task.

Acknowledgments: This research was made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada