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Often, if one is concentrating too hard on a particular task, it seems as though it's quite easy to skip to the next step of a plan of action. For example, a baseball infielder may attempt a throw to first base before he has fielded the ball cleanly.

Is the intervening (skipped) movement actually removed from the sequence of steps in the existing motor plan, and is this facilitated by one's level of distraction, or do external stimuli cause the original plan to be created with this flaw?

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Q: Does distraction cause us to skip to the next step in a motor plan?

A: It depends on the processes in progress, characteristics of the subject and characteristics of the signal to produce interference (based on an orientation reflex that is the beginning of an act of involuntary attention), many factors, mainly:

  • Characteristics of the process involved in the distraction (mainly nature of the stimulus but also what relevance it has for the subject).

  • The nature of the processes that are being executed in the motor plan (automatic or controlled, these processes differ in practice, memory, difficulty, relectivity, required level of effort, etc.) (processes related to sports can be automated much from training).

  • Characteristics of the subject (different capacities of selective attention, etc.).

See: Shiffrin, R. M., & Schneider, W. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing. Perceptual learning, automatic attending, and a general theory. Psychological Review, 84, 127-190.

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