Quiet-eye training, perceived control and performing under pressure


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Abstract

Objectives:While previous studies have explored how quiet-eye (QE) training optimizes objective (visual attention) control in aiming tasks, this study examined whether QE training influences perceived (psychological) control and how changes in control beliefs correspond to changes in anxiety, visual attention and performance under pressure.Methods:Two groups of ten experienced soccer penalty takers followed either a QE training program or a practice program where penalty kicks were practiced with no instruction. Measurements of anxiety, gaze, performance and perceived control were recorded over baseline, retention and a competitive, ‘shoot-out’ transfer condition.Results:Not only did the QE training optimize aiming behavior and performance, but these changes in visual attention were mirrored in changes in control beliefs. QE participants significantly reduced their perceptions of outcome uncertainty (contingency) and increased their perceptions of shooting ability (competence) and ability to score and cope with the pressure (control), compared to practice participants. Furthermore, there was an overall and significant relationship between high perceptions of control beliefs and aiming behavior. Specifically, those participants with high control beliefs were more likely to aim optimally and further from the goalkeeper, whereas participants with low control beliefs experienced suboptimal and more centralized aiming behavior.Conclusion:These findings are the first to highlight the relationship between control beliefs, anxiety and attentional control in sport and offer further explanations regarding the benefits of QE training for performance under pressure.

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