Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts in Applied Experimental Psychology


An important goal of exercise psychology is to identify factors that influence exercise adherence. More than half of Americans do not get the physical activity that doctors recommend for maintaining or improving a healthy lifestyle. Attentional focus during exercise has been identified as one casual factor with regard to exercise adherence. Attentional focus has traditionally oeen defined as associative or dissociative (Morgan & Pollock, 1977). Association implies that an exerciser's attention is focused on how his or her body is reacting to the exercise (such as sweating, muscle soreness, and breathing) or on things such as pace and split-times. Dissociation implies that one's focus is placed on things that are unrelated to the exercise, such as daydreaming, listening to music, or focusing on the environment. The purpose of the current study was to determine how both the Stages of Change model and the intensity level of the exercise bout affect attentional focus. A new six-category measure of attentional focus was used. A total of 145 undergraduate psychology students were divided into differing levels of expertise based on the Stages of Change model and assigned to run at a moderate and very hard intensity on two separate days; attentional focus was measured following each bout. All but one stage of change focused on bodily sensations significantly more at the very hard intensity; the pre-contemplation/contemplation stage focused on bodily sensations less at the very hard intensity. Regardless of level of expertise, focus on bodily sensations, selftalk, and task-relevant external cues significantly increased and focus on task-irrelevant thoughts and external distractions significantly decreased from the moderate to very hard intensity. Participants reported significantly greater perceived exertion, greater pain, and less enjoyment at the very hard compared to the moderate intensity. Implications for these findings are discussed.


Psychology | Sports Sciences