Exploring the thoughts and focus of attention of elite musicians under pressure

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    Abstract

    Although musicians often have to perform under high pressure, there is little systematic research into the foci of attention needed to maintain performance in such situations. In the current study, we asked elite musicians to report what they focus on and think about during moments of high pressure, using two retrospective methods (concept mapping and verbal reports). For concept mapping, seven expert teachers from an elite academy of music generated clusters of statements about this issue. In the verbal reports, 44 elite musicians described their thoughts and focus of attention. Concept mapping resulted in six clusters, of which "focus on physical aspects," "thoughts that give confidence," and "music-related focus" were shown to be the main foci of attention, together representing 85.2% of all 190 statements generated in the verbal reports. Statements regarding "music-related focus" represented 49.7% of all statements. In conclusion, to maintain a high level of performance under pressure, experienced musicians frequently focus on music-related information, physical aspects, and thoughts that give confidence. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)459-472
    JournalPsychology of Music
    Volume43
    Early online date29 Jan 2014
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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