The Effects of Directing the Learnerís Gaze on Skill Acquisition in Gymnastics
Authors: Thomas Heinen, Pia Vinken, and Hardy Fink
Abstract: Although eye movements and motor acts are strongly connected when performing complex skills, little is known about when perceptual instructions facilitate the acquisition of skills in gymnastics. The goal of this experiment was to evaluate the effects of perceptual instructions on performance in the acquisition and retention of a handspring on vault in gymnastics. It was predicted that participants who are provided with either perceptual instructions or perceptual instructions and external visual cues would improve their performance to a greater extent than participants of a control group. Movement quality and movement kinematics of 30 gymnasts in the acquisition and retention of the handspring on vault in gymnastics were analyzed. Movement quality was higher for both experimental groups (instructions and instructions + visual cues) compared to the control group in a retention-test. Furthermore, participants of the two experimental groups exhibited a higher horizontal velocity during run-up as well as a higher and longer second flight phase. Findings suggest that perceptual instructions facilitate learning of the handspring on vault in gymnastics, whereas no remarkable difference was found between gaze behavior being instructed or instructed and triggered by external visual cues.