The size and shape of the attentional "spotlight" varies with differences in sports expertise

Stefanie Hüttermann, Daniel Memmert, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Focused attention enhances processing of some aspects of the world at the expense of unattended items. Although focused attention has been studied for decades, few studies have measured individual and group differences in how people distribute attention. In three studies, we explored differences in the breadth and distribution of attention as a function of athletic expertise. Study 1 found 25% greater attention breadth in expert athletes than in novices. Study 2 found that the distribution of focused attention for experts varied as a function of the type of athletic expertise: Experts in sports that demand greater horizontal distribution of attention (e.g., soccer) showed greater horizontal breadth of attention than did those whose sports demand more vertical attention (e.g., volleyball), and vice versa. Study 3 used a slightly modified design to replicate the results of Studies 1 and 2. Overall, the findings reveal a systematic association between the measured "shape" of focused attention in a laboratory task and expertise in a real-world skill.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Focus of attention
  • Visuospatial attention
  • Zoom lens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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