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In praise of conscious awareness: A new framework for the investigation of "continuous improvement" in expert athletes

Toner, John; Moran, Aidan


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Dr John Toner
Lecturer in Sports Coaching and Performance

Aidan Moran


A key postulate of traditional theories of motor skill-learning (e.g., Fitts and Posner, 1967; Shiffrin and Schneider, 1977) is that expert performance is largely automatic in nature and tends to deteriorate when the performer “reinvests” in, or attempts to exert conscious control over, proceduralized movements (Masters and Maxwell, 2008). This postulate is challenged, however, by recent empirical evidence (e.g., Nyberg, in press; Geeves et al., 2014) which shows that conscious cognitive activity plays a key role in facilitating further improvement amongst expert sports performers and musicians – people who have already achieved elite status (Toner and Moran, in press). This evidence suggests that expert performers in motor domains (e.g., sport, music) can strategically deploy conscious attention to alternate between different modes of bodily awareness (reflective and pre-reflective) during performance. Extrapolating from this phenomenon, the current paper considers how a novel theoretical approach (adapted from Sutton et al., 2011) could help researchers to elucidate some of the cognitive mechanisms mediating continuous improvement amongst expert performers.


Toner, J., & Moran, A. (2014). In praise of conscious awareness: A new framework for the investigation of "continuous improvement" in expert athletes. Frontiers in psychology Frontiers Research Foundation, 5(JUL), 1-5.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2014
Online Publication Date Jul 16, 2014
Publication Date Jun 16, 2014
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 21, 2015
Journal Frontiers in psychology
Print ISSN 1664-1078
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue JUL
Article Number ARTN 769
Pages 1-5
Keywords Expertise; Continuous improvement; Attention; Embodiment; Bodily awareness
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Frontiers in psychology, 2015, v.5


Article.pdf (203 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Toner and Moran. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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