Attentional focus, cognitive strategies, and perceptual responses during endurance activity

  • Rebecca Quinn

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The influence of physical activity on health has been well documented. However, physical inactivity is a global pandemic and research is required to provide a deeper understanding of methods to reduce negative perceptual responses associated with exercise. These responses include exercise-induced negative affect and increased effort perception, both of which are predictive of future exercise behaviour. Additionally, existing research indicates that cognitive strategies can ameliorate these unhelpful perceptual responses.

This thesis aimed to explore perceptual responses associated with endurance exercise and the impact of attentional focus and cognitive strategies on these responses. To achieve this, a systematic review (Chapter 3) was completed to explore the influence of cognitive strategies on effort perception and affective responses during endurance exercise. Music interventions indicated most significant increases in positive affect during endurance exercise. Next, a rigorous scale development study (Chapter 4) was completed to assess the underlying factorial structure of attentional focus during endurance exercise. Findings indicated a 5-factor model explained the data most appropriately. However, a valid model of attentional focus could not be obtained. Subsequently, the influence of socio-demographic variables as predictors of attentional foci dimensions were explored (Chapter 5). Correlations and multiple regressions indicate males focused on pacing and outward monitoring (POM) and active self-regulation (Movement/technique; ASR-MT) and females focused on distractive (DIST) thoughts during endurance exercise. Finally, drawing on information from the systematic review and scale development studies, a field-based online cognitive strategy intervention was developed and assessed for feasibility (Chapter 6) to improve adherence to beginner running programmes. This study highlighted that while the intervention was feasible in beginner runners, there were various issues that need to be addressed within the intervention, including participant demand. This thesis has highlighted the significant influence of cognitive strategies and attentional focus techniques on negative perceptual responses during endurance exercise.
Date of AwardFeb 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCathy Craig (Supervisor), Noel Brick (Supervisor), Lynn Dunwoody (Supervisor) & Victoria Simms (Supervisor)


  • Psychological skills
  • Effort
  • Effort perception
  • Affect
  • Affective valence
  • Beginner exercisers

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