Motor performance as a function of audience affability and metaknowledge

Jonathan Law, Richard Masters, SR Bray, Francis Eves, [No Value] [No Value]

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)


Butler and Baumeister (1998) suggested that performance decrement of a difficult skill-based task occurring only in the presence of a supportive audience could be explained by "a cautious performance style" (p. 1226). A potential alternative explanation stems from Masters' (1992) contention that skill failure under pressure occurs when performers attempt to control motor performance using explicit knowledge. It was proposed that a skill acquired with minimal metaknowledge (i.e., a limited explicit knowledge base) would remain robust regardless of audience type. To test this hypothesis, a table tennis shot was learned with either a greater or a lesser bank of explicit task knowledge. Performance was subsequently assessed in the presence of observation-only audiences, supportive audiences, and adversarial audiences. Consistent with hypotheses, supportive audiences induced performance decrement in the explicit-learning group only. It was argued that supportive audiences engender higher levels of internally focused attention than do adversarial or observation-only audiences, increasing the chance of disruption to skill execution when performance characteristics involve a large amount of explicit processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-500
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of sport & exercise psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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