Conscious processing and rowing: a field study

Katie Sparks, Maria Kavussanu, Richard Masters, Chris Ring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Objectives: The theory of reinvestment has been used to explain underperformance of motor skills in sport. Our study had three objectives. First, we examined the influence of conscious processing on rowing performance in competitive races. Second, we investigated conscious processing as a function of rowing experience. Finally, we explored whether extreme conscious processing predicted catastrophic skill failure during competitive rowing. Design: Cross-sectional field study. Participants were observed during a competitive race before completing a multi-measure questionnaire. Method: Participants were recruited from one of five rowing events held in the English midlands. Rowers (N = 147) were observed racing and then completed measures of movement-specific reinvestment, perceived performance, and demographics. Actual performance was calculated from their race finishing position. Results: Post-hoc data analysis revealed that Movement Self-Consciousness (MSC) but not Conscious Motor Processing (CMP) was associated with actual race performance. CMP was positively associated with perceived technical performance, whereas MSC was negatively associated with perceived tactical performance. Two rowers who were observed to crab (i.e., choke) during their race reported extreme levels of CMP. Finally, the relationship between conscious processing and performance was not moderated by rowing experience. Conclusion: Our findings provide broad support for the theory of reinvestment in the rowing context. Poor race outcome was only associated with MSC, suggesting that the pressures of competition, such as social evaluation, impact field performance. Catastrophic performance failure during competition (i.e., crabbing) was linked to extremely high CMP, which may be due to excessive conscious control that CMP evokes, therefore disrupting automatic processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-531
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date25 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Society of Sport Psychology.


  • Choking
  • Crabbing
  • Reinvestment
  • Rowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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