Conscious processing and rowing: a field study

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Colleges, School and Institutes


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: Rowers (N = 147) were observed while racing and then completed measures of movement-specific reinvestment, perceived performance, and demographics. Actual performance was calculated from their race finishing position.

Results: 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 CMP and MSC scores. 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 context of rowing. Poor race outcome was only associated with movement self-consciousness, suggesting that pressures of competition, such as social evaluation and comparison, impact performance in the field. Catastrophic performance failure during competition (i.e., crabbing) was linked to extremely high conscious motor processing and either extremely high or low movement self-consciousness.

Bibliographic note

Funding This work was supported by Economic and Social Research Council: [grant number: 1+3 DTP].


Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Early online date25 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Feb 2021


  • Choking, crabbing, reinvestment, rowing