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Art in Motion

Musical and Athletic Motor Learning and Performance

Edited By Adina Mornell

Musicians tend to believe that the mystery of their art cannot be objectively studied, quantified, or explained. As a result, the term «motor learning» is rarely used in connection with musicians, and an empirical approach to musical performance is more the exception than the rule. Sports scientists, however, show a great interest in musicians because of their advanced skill level and the attentional and emotional demands of the concert stage. This work combines knowledge across disciplines. Advances toward an understanding of human behavior and cognition offer clues to strategies of motor learning and performance that promote the well-being of musicians and athletes. This book provides a forum for an interdisciplinary exchange of research, laying the groundwork for future projects.


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Attentional and Motivational Influences on Motor Performance and Learning (Gabriele Wulf/Rebecca Lewthwaite)


Attentional and Motivational Influences on Motor Performance and Learning Abstract Movement-based performance, such as musical performance, relies on effective processing of task-related and other information. Musical and other forms of motor performance, however, are inherently subject to social influences because their expression is public and observable, or could become so. While the social nature of movement-based achievement activity contributes to enjoyment for participants and audiences, it may also invoke the self-related cognitions and affect that can have potentially detrimental effects on performance. Instructions or feedback provided during practice may promote self-focused attention or may keep attention focused on the movement task at hand. We review findings from different lines of research, which suggest that a focus on the self hampers motor performance and degrades the effectiveness of learning. Specifically, we discuss studies related to the content of individuals’ thoughts surrounding performance that are induced by instructions or feedback; these thoughts pertain to attentional focus, normative feedback, and performers’ conceptions of ability. Instructions or feedback that direct performers’ attention to their body movements (internal focus), indicate relatively poor performance, or portray a task as reflecting an inherent ability, appear to promote a focus on the self. In contrast, those that direct performers’ attention to the desired movement effect (external focus), indicate good performance, or represent the task as a learnable skill, promote a focus on the task, and facilitate movement automaticity and more effective performance. Implications of these findings for music pedagogy are discussed. Musical performance often...

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