Attention, working memory and cognitive flexibility determinants of visual-motor performance

Maarten A. Immink, Alex Chatburn, James Baumeister, Matthias Schlesewsky, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Determining the critical cognitive factors contributing to task performance is
essential for formulating personnel or athlete selection testing protocols and
to develop task-relevant cognitive training interventions. As attention,
working memory capacity (WMC) and cognitive flexibility, the capacity
for set switching and stimulus adaptation, are frequently represented in
cognitive testing and training approaches, the present work aimed to identify
their contributions to visual-motor performance in terms of perceptual
sensitivity (d-prime), aiming and selection latency and cognitive demands,
based on a secondary auditory probe reaction time task. Participants (N = 45,
23 females, Mage = 22.7 ± 3.8 years) completed the Attention Network Test
(ANT), Digit-Span Test (DST) and the Remote Associates Test (RAT) prior
to performing an immersive virtual reality marksmanship task involving
aiming and selection of visual target stimuli while avoiding selection of nontargets. Based on linear regression, d-prime increased with DST scores
(β = 0.015, CI: 0.0020, 0.029, p = 0.03) while selection latency decreased as
DST (β = -1.59, CI: -2.67, -0.50, p = 0.005) and RAT (β = -1.92, CI: -1.13, -
0.34, p = 0.006) scores increased. Probe reaction time decreased as DST
scores increased (β = -1.23, CI: -2.40, -0.072, p = 0.04) and increased with
poorer ANT executive network performance (β = 0.39, CI: 0.022, 0.772,
p = 0.04). These results highlight the importance of WMC across perceptual
and motor dimensions of visual-motor task performance consistent with the
view that WMC is a general attribute of performance. The inverse association
between response latency and RAT scores illustrates the relevance of
cognitive flexibility for processing speed and orienting towards target
information in the presence of distractions. While probe reaction time was
intended to index cognitive demands, the associations with WMC and the
ANT executive network suggest that probe reaction time more likely
reflected an ability to detect and respond to two sources of information
simultaneously. Funding source: Human Performance Research Network,
Department of Defence, Australian Government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S31
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue numberSupplement
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Event2021 North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference - Virtual Conference
Duration: 9 Jun 202111 Jun 2021


  • Working memory capacity
  • cognitive flexibility
  • cognitive testing
  • Visual-Motor Performance


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