2011. Vol.2, No.5, 472-476
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.25073
Broadbent’s Cognitive Approach and Its Effect on Motor
Performance in Sports
Mehmet Koyuncu
Psychology Department, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, Turkey.
Received April 12th, 2011; revised May 23rd, 2011; accepted June 28th, 2011.
This study aimed to test Broadbent’s attentional filtering theory in the perceptual motor task of dart throwing.
Dart board size was manipulated in order to reduce the amount of information to be filtered in the participants’
field of view. Sample consisted of 122 college students (63 males and 59 females) ranging in age from 17 to 36.
Participants’ task was to throw 18 darts at the center of targets 45 cm, 30 cm and 15 cm in diameter. Perform-
ance was measured as radial distance from the bulls-eye of each dart. One way ANOVA, Repeated Measure of
ANOVA was used in the analysis of the obtained data. The results of our study showed that dart throwing per-
formance gave better results in cases where target’s field of view was reduced, compared to the ones in which
target’s field of view was increased. Consistent with Broadbent’s central claim, results showed that fewer stimuli
in the field of view required less processing, thus, better performance. Also, those subjects that were exercising
regularly did better than the ones that were not exercising. This study provides evidence that reducing target’s
field of view in dart thr owin g i n c reases the chances to obtain better results.
Keywords: Attentional Filtering, Perception, Dart Throwing
This study is concerned with the role attention plays in im-
proving dart-throwing accuracy. Although dart throwing is
essentially based on individual’s motor skills and practice, an-
other key factor is perception. Perception as a concept is
strongly related to attention. Previous studies examining indi-
vidual differences in perceptual-motor skills, such as dart
throwing, have largely focused on gender, physical characteris-
tics, colour, circadian rhythm, distance to target, metamotiva-
tional dominance and attentional focus. Results from these
studies indicated that some of these factors may possibly affect
dart throwing accuracy which depends on perceptual motor
skills. For example, Edwards, Waterhouse, Atkinson and Reilly
(2007) found that long distance dart throws improve signifi-
cantly during daytime and the positively correlated intra-aural
temperature. These finding indicates an association between
physiological parameters and dart throwing performance.
Another factor that might be effective in dart throwing per-
formance is colour. In a study by Eason and Smith (1980), it
was found that individuals who aimed at a white-achromatic
target were better able to perform dart throwing task than indi-
viduals who aimed at multi-chromatic target. However, Araki
and Huddleston (2002) found no colour effect on dart throwing
performance and rejected the notion which suggested that tar-
get’s colour may have an effect on dart throwing accuracy.
Gender differences also seem an important factor on dart throw-
ing performance. Duffy, Ericsson, and Baluc h (200 7) fo und large
sex differences in throwing accuracy even after control for
physical characteristics differences.
According to Bindarwish and Tenenbaum (2006), metamoti-
vational states can effect efficacy beliefs and performance dur-
ing a motor task. They found that paratelic-dominant subjects,
who are more prone to pursue goals that are perceived to be fun,
were more self-efficacious and exhibited better performance in
dart throwing task than telic-dominant subjects, who are more
prone to pursue goals that are perceived to be important.
These individual differences cannot be conceived of as inde-
pendent from attention. Dart throwing as a perceptual motor
skill requires considerable amount of attention. Attention and
attentional processes pervade virtually all aspects of perception,
cognition, and action indeed, it is difficult to conceive of any
aspect of human skill that is not, in some way, either dependent
on or influenced by attention. Equally, it is difficult to conceive
of any aspect of psychology that may be more central to the
enhancement of skill learning and expert performance than
attention (Rogers, Rousseau, & Fisk, 1999; Abernethy, Max-
well, Masters, Van Der Kamp, & Jackson, 2007).
In a perceptual motor skill, such as dart throwing, attention
plays an important role since such goal-directed behavior re-
quires a high degree of selectivity, concentration, and focusing
at some point in the processing stream. However, our senses
are affected by a variety of stimuli, either related or unre-
lated with the task at hand. According to D. E. Broadbent’s
(1958) selective filter theory, these stimuli which are not
related to the task remain unattended; only basic physical
properties are analyzed. Broadbent’s selective filter mecha-
nism operates in terms of stages. Initially, all stimuli are
processed to extract their physical properties which are,
then, stored in the immediate memory. A further processing
of the stimuli as relevant or irrelevant, however, is subject
to severe capacity limitations. Broadbent claims that a se-
lective filter is needed to select certain stimuli for a further
processing and to filter out other, irrelevant stimuli (La-
chter, Forster, & Ruthruff, 2004).
In their essay Forty-Five Years after Broadbent (1958), La-
chter, Forster and Ruthruff (2004) claimed that selective filter
theory of attention, championed first by Broadbent (1958), was
still valid. It has been shown that more salient objects or fea-
tures are more likely to trigger attentional modulation (Treis-
man, 1982). Attention enhances task-relevant information while
inhibiting or filtering irrelevant signals (Desimone & Duncan,
1995). Thus, an increase in the distracting stimulus might in-
crease task interference, causing a decline in behavioral per-
Considering Nelson’s (1998) argument which claimed that
large amount of information in the environment would over-
whelm the limited-capacity of our system, it seems reasonable
to suggest that Broadbent’s (1958) “filter theory” can explain
variability in dart throwing performance. Broadbent (1958)
claimed that most stimuli were filtered through the attentional
system before they could reach short-term memory, which was
conceived as a limited capacity storage system.
Yantis and Johnston (1990) and, later, Miller (1991) also
stated that people have a limited attentional capacity for proc-
essing visual events. Referring to Yantis and Johnston’s
(1990) and Miller’s (1991) studies on perceptual load, La-
chter, Forster and Ruthruff stated that:
When processing of the display is relatively simple, attention
can be allocated to the entire display so that all elements will
be processed. However, as processing becomes more compli-
cated, it requires more capacity until, at some point, the capac-
ity necessary to handle the entire display exceeds the amount
available. Thus when a participant is asked to perform a simple
task on a simple display, the entire display is processed, in-
cluding any irrelevant items. However, when either the task or
the stimuli becomes complicated, capacity is shifted away from
irrelevant stimuli, resulting in reduced compatibility effects (p.
Selective attention allows only needed data to be processed
by the nervous system’s limited processing capacity while ef-
fectively eliminating potentially distracting data which can
distract performance.
In sports tasks, such as dart throwing, effective and efficient
operation of selective attentional processes is essential for
skilled performance since critical cues are available only mo-
mentarily and sources of distraction abound information- proc-
essing resources.
Selective attention is frequently examined experimentally
using tasks in which focusing of attention (“concentration”) to
information from a specified modality, spatial location, or con-
text is required in the face of competition from other items and
sources of distraction. Similarly, in dart throwing, concentration
and focusing are essential for a better performance. In such
tasks, the selective attention of experts is frequently examined
using approaches such as cue occlusion and eye movement
recording (Abernethy, Wann, & Parks, 1998) and interpretation
is heavily influenced by Gibsonian notions of the education of
attention and attunement (Beek, Jacobs, Daffertshofer, & Huys,
2003; Gibson, 1991).
Another major role attention plays in human performance
relates to the management and allocation of limited informa-
tion-processing resources. Understanding this role involves
consideration of the attentional requirements of different tasks,
individual- and expertise-related differences in the capacity to
divide and switch attention between concurrent tasks, and to
automatize at least some task components such that they come
to require little or no conscious attention to control (Rogers,
Rousseau, & Fisk, 1999; Abernethy, Maxwell, Masters, Van
Der Kamp, & Jackson, 2007).
Radlo et al. (1999) stated that external focus of attention was
more facilitating than internal focus of attention in dart throw-
ing performance. Emanuel, Jarus and Bart’s (2008) results also
showed that external focus of attention was related with better
dart throwing performance especially in adults rather than chil-
dren. They claimed that by trying to consciously control their
movements (internal focus), instead of focusing on the move-
ment effect (external focus), participants constrained their mo-
tor systems which inadvertently disrupted automatic processes.
This shows that most sport skills are performed with contribu-
tions from both controlled and automatic processes, rather than
one process exclusively. They depend both on skill level or
stage of learning and on the nature and constraints of the task
(Anson, Elliot, & Davids, 2005; Bernstein, 1996). Assuming
that controlled processing, but not automatic processing, relies
heavily on the availability of a limited-capacity attentional re-
source (i.e., working memory), it follows that skilled perform-
ance depends on either efficient allocation of conscious atten-
tional resources or automatization of certain subcomponents
(Abernethy et al., 2007). Thus, performers will benefit from the
fewer loads on the limited capacity of their attention.
Based on these arguments, we postulated that performance in
dart throwing task would give better results when target’s field
of view was reduced (less visual stimuli to be processed), com-
pared to an increased field of view which would contain more
visual stimuli or distracting or irrelevant material to be proc-
essed. In other words, the aim of the study is to find out the
effect of processing less or more visual stimuli on dart
throwing performance.
Participants included were 60 regular exerciser and 62 non
exerciser college students with a mean age 22.16. Of all the
participants 59 were female and 63 were male. Individuals rep-
resenting regular exercise group were randomly selected from
the School of Physical Education and Sports and individuals
representing non exercise group were randomly selected from
the Faculty of Letters. Participants were also asked to rate their
exercise frequency in order to confirm their athletic status.
They had no previous experience on dart throwing task.
Participants were allowed five warm up dart throwing trials
in order to become familiar with the task. Participants’ dart
throwing accuracy was evaluated under three different condi-
There were 3 discrete blocks presented to the participants in
a counterbalanced order. In the first condition (condition A),
participants threw six darts to a 45 cm diameter dart board from
2.37 m distance. Dartboards were placed at 1.70 m height.
During the first condition participants were able to see the en-
tire 45 cm diameter target.
In the second condition (condition B), dartboard’s size was
reduced to 30 cm by covering its surface with a black circle
subject effect of targets size (F2,117 = 3. 656; p < .05, n2 = .059).
Thus, there were significant accuracy differences between con-
dition A (mean = 9.55, sd = 3.44), and condition C (mean =
8.57, sd = 3.83) indicating that 15 cm diameter target dart
throwings (condition C) revealed significantly better perform-
ances than 45 cm diameter target dart throwings (condition A).
Repeated measures of ANOVA showed that there were not any
significant differences between subject effect in dart throwing
accuracy (F2,117 = . 348; p > .05, n2 = .006).
material 15 cm from outside to inside (see in Figure 1). This
time participants threw six darts to new 30 cm diameter target
from the same distance.
In the third condition (condition C), participants’ task was to
throw six darts to 15 cm diameter target which was narrowed
by the same method. Performance was measured as radial dis-
tance from the bulls-eye of each dart, which was considered a
measure of “accuracy”—the smaller the distance, the greater
the accuracy.
The posture and throwing techniques the participants adopted
were of their on choosing, but they were required to maintain
these in all of three conditions. Participants were instructed
always to aim for t h e bul l eye.
To validate repeated measure’s result, which indicated that
exercise participation had no effect on dart throwing accuracy,
Independent Sample t-test was carried out. Results showed that
regular exercisers (mean = 8.47, sd = 2.74) had significantly
better dart throwing accuracy than non-exercisers (mean = 9.75,
sd = 3.61) only in condition B (t (120) = 2.16, p < .05) while no
accuracy differences were noticed between regular exercisers
and non-exercisers in Condition A and C.
Three independent variables were tested in the experiment by
a between subject design. The efficacy of the conditions (Con-
dition A, Condition B, and Condition C) and groups (regular
exerciser and non exerciser) was tested by a 3 × 2 between
subject design.
Independent Sample t-test was conducted to see the gender
effect on dart throwing accuracy. Results revealed that males
had greater dart throwing accuracy than females in all of the
three conditions (Table 2).
Data Analysis To examine the effect of height as a physical trait on dart
throwing accuracy, participants were divided into 3 groups.
Individuals measuring 169 cm or lower were included in short
height group; medium height group consisted of individuals
measuring between 170 - 177 cm in height; 178 cm and upper
individuals were included in the tall group.
In the analysis of obtained data set descriptive statistics, such
as Independent Samples t-test, One Way ANOVA, Repeated
Measure ANOVA, were used. Data was analyzed with SPSS
11.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chica go IL L, USA).
One way ANOVA was conducted in order to see if any sig-
nificant accuracy differences existed among height groups. One
way ANOVA with Post Hoc Scheffe indicated that taller par-
ticipants’ dart throwing performance was better than shorter
participants’ performance in Condition A, B, and C. In addition,
medium height participants had greater dart throwing accuracy
than shorter participants in condition C (Table 3).
The experiment included 122 participants and the descriptive
statistics results of regular and non-exercisers were shown in
Table 1.
In order to examine whether there is a difference in dart
throwing accuracy based on target size (3) and regular exercise
participation (2) Repeated Measure of ANOVA was conducted.
Results indicated that there were significant differences within
Table 2.
Independent sample t-test on ge nder effect for dart throwing accu racy.
Table 1.
Descriptive statistics results of regular and non exercisers.
Exercisers Non
Mean S.d. Mean S.d.
Condition A 9.16 3.81 9.87 3.01
Condition B 8.47 2.74 9.75 3.61
Condition C 8.09 3.46 9 4.19
Groups n Mean Std. Deviation t p
Female59 10.57 3.74
Condition AMale 63 8.54 2.79 3.41 .001
Female57 10.38 3.64
Condition BMale 63 8.02 2.45 4.20 .000
Female59 10.21 4.44
Condition CMale 63 7.02 2.40 4,99 .000
(a) (b) (c)
Figure 1.
Restructured for three different experimental cond itions (a, b, and c respectively).
Table 3.
One Way ANOVA results on height groups.
N MeanSt.D. F Sig. n
Short 44 10.653.50
Normal 41 9.55 3.53
Condition A Tall 37 8.16 2.73 5.76 .004 .10
Short 43 10.323.71
Normal 40 8.63 3.05
Condition B Tall 37 8.34 2.60 4.62 .012 .10
Short 44 10.774.39
Normal 41 7.81 3.35
Condition C
Tall 37 6.78 2.18
14.54 .000.20
Results of the study confirmed our initial hypothesis sug-
gesting that dart throwing accuracy would improve when the
target’s size was reduced. This result is consistent with selec-
tive filter theory, originally suggested by Broadbent (1958).
Decreasing the unnecessary stimuli in the visual field of the
participants by reducing the size of the dartboard resulted in
increased quality of response and accuracy due to less informa-
tion directed to the nervous system to be processed. Luck and
Hillyard’s (1994) argument suggesting that the human visual
system is frequently confronted with complex visual scenes
containing multiple objects, and accurate perception under
these conditions poses significant computational problems also
confirms our results.
Also, it was found that male participants had greater dart
throwing accuracy than females in all of the three conditions.
This result is compatible with Duffy, Balunch, and Ericsson
(2004). In their study Duffy, Balunch, and Ericsson (2004)
observed a gender effect on dart throwing performance even
after controlling for physical attributes such as arm length.
In another study conducted again by Duffy, Ericsson, and
Baluch (2007), they showed a gender difference on dart throw-
ing performance in favor of males. As they stated differential
engagement in associated motor activities may explain gender
differences in dart throwing accuracy. Results about gender
difference in our study, may also be an evidence verifying
Hodges, Huys, and Starkes’ (2007) findings. They argued that
“practice experiences as a function of gender are both quantita-
tively and qualitatively different, with the demands and amount
of practice for women athletes being more stringent than those
for men to attain a similar level of performance.” Another pos-
sible explanation for gender differences in dart throwing may
be endocrine system activities. As Gouchie and Kimura (1991)
demonstrated, higher level of salivary testosterone was associ-
ated with better performance on spatial ability task in both
males an d fe males.
The results of the study showed that there were performance
differences in dart throwing in terms of height. Thus, taller
participants were better able to perform on dart throwing task
than shorter participants. These results were similar to Duffy,
Ericsson, and Baluch’s (2007) results. In their regression model,
height could significantly predict dart throwing performance in
expert dart players.
No differences occurred between the dart throwing perform-
ances of regular exercisers and non-exercisers. This is impor-
tant in demonstrating that regular exercising did not have any
significant effect on dart throwing accuracy. However, ma-
nipulation of the dart board’s size (that is, reducing the visual
field and, consequently, inhibiting distracting stimuli) did pro-
duce significant differences.
Further investigation could be conducted in sports using dif-
ferent throwing styles and throwing material, such as archery,
to test the effect of stimulus type (less or more stimuli) on the
performance of the participants. Also, choosing a colored target
material instead of a black and white dart board might prove
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