Autonomy and focus of attention in medical motor skills learning: a randomized experiment

  • Franziska Pollok
  • David Cook
  • Nizamuddin Shaikh
  • Shane Pankratz
  • Mark Morrey
  • Torrey A Laack


The ‘OPTIMAL’ (Optimizing Performance Through Intrinsic Motivation and Attention for Learning) theory of motor learning suggests that autonomy, external focus of attention, and perceived competence can improve learning of simple motor tasks. The authors hypothesized that enhanced (vs. routine) autonomy and external (vs. internal) focus of attention would improve first-try performance of two medical motor tasks.

The authors conducted a randomized two-by-two factorial design study with high school students as participants. Task instructions promoted either enhanced or routine autonomy, and either external or internal focus of attention. These conditions were replicated in a crossover design for two common medical tasks (chest compressions on a manikin and a Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery peg transfer task). Primary outcomes were objective measures of task performance (chest compression deviation from target depth; peg transfer time with penalties for errors). Secondary outcomes included subjective perceptions of confidence, autonomy, and workload.

One hundred thirty-three high school students participated in this study. The primary outcomes concerning enhanced vs. routine autonomy demonstrated no statistically significant difference in either task (chest compression depth deviation: difference -0.7 mm [score range 0 to 37.5 mm]; 95% confidence interval (CI95) -3.85, 2.41; p = .65; peg transfer penalized time: rate ratio 1.03; CI95 0.91, 1.31; p = .79). The authors likewise found no statistically significant difference for external vs. internal focus of attention (depth deviation: difference 1.1 mm; CI95 -2.04, 4.17; p = .50; penalized time: rate ratio 0.89; CI95 0.75, 1.13; p = .33). The authors found no statistically significant differences for either comparison in confidence, autonomy and workload (p > .09; differences ranged from -0.83 to 0.79 [scale range 0 to 10]).

First-try performance of chest compressions and peg transfer by novice learners is not significantly affected by enhanced (vs. routine) autonomy or external (vs. internal) focus of attention.

Bibliografische Daten

Titel in ÜbersetzungAutonomie und Aufmerksamkeitsfokus beim Erlernen medizinischer Motorik: ein randomisiertes Experiment
StatusVeröffentlicht - 19.01.2022