Emotions, cognitive interference, and concentration disruption in youth sport

Paul J. McCarthy, Mark S. Allen, Marc V. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


We explored the relationship between emotions, cognitive interference, concentration disruption and performance in youth sport. In Study 1, 150 youth sport athletes (Mage = 13.13 years, s = 1.79) completed measures of emotion, cognitive interference, and concentration disruption for their most recently completed competition. In Study 2, 46 female rhythmic gymnasts (Mage = 10.30 years, s = 1.74) completed measures of emotion immediately before competition, and measures of cognitive interference and concentration disruption immediately after competition. 

Study 1 showed that anxiety and dejection were associated with more interfering thoughts and greater disruptions in concentration, whereas the effects of anger and happiness on interfering thoughts differed relative to the age of participants. Specifically, anger was associated with more interfering thoughts only in younger athletes and happiness was associated with fewer interfering thoughts only in older athletes. 

Study 2 showed that emotions experienced before competition were not strongly associated with cognitive interference or concentration disruption, but athletes reporting more thoughts of escape in competition were less successful in the competition as measured by objective performance scores. 

These findings demonstrate that emotions are important for cognitive interference and concentration disruption, and provide some initial evidence that cognitive interference is important for performance in youth sport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-515
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Developmental level
  • Sport performance


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