Getting the butterflies to fly in formation: A review on the modulating effect of attentional control on motor and visual aspects of sports performance under pressure

Written by Raluca Liștea, Emmanuel Ducrocq, Amalia Siminiceanu, Laura Visu-Petra on . Posted in Special issue: Mental aspects of sport performance - Volume XXI, Nr 4


Raluca Liștea1, Emmanuel Ducrocq2, Amalia Siminiceanu1, Laura Visu-Petra1,*

1 Developmental Psychology Lab, Department of Psychology, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
2 Affective and Cognitive Control Lab, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of London, Birkbeck, UK


The relationship between anxiety and sport performance has been a topic of great interest to coaches and sports psychology researchers alike. This is especially relevant, given the identified adverse effects of anxiety on various specific aspects of visual and motor behavior, but also on overall sport performance. The Attentional Control Theory (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007) and its recent extension to the sports domain (Eysenck & Wilson, 2016) provide a useful framework to examine the negative impact of anxiety in sports and the potential underlying mechanisms associated with anxiety-related performance deficits. Taking into account the critical role played by visual attentional control and movement execution in determining optimal performance, this review focuses on anxiety-related changes in gaze and motor behaviors, as well as their direct and indirect impact on sport performance. We also review findings from pioneering studies that translate such knowledge into different strategies designed to improve gaze and motor behavior in order to promote resilient sport performance in competitive contexts.

Keywords: anxiety, attentional control, gaze training, motor behavior, sport performance



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