Challenge and threat states, performance, and attentional control during a pressurized soccer penalty task.

The integrative framework of stress, attention, and visuomotor performance was developed to explain the benefits of responding to competitive pressure with a challenge rather than a threat state. However, the specific predictions of this framework have not been tested. Forty-two participants completed 2 trials of a pressurized soccer penalty task. Before the first trial, challenge and threat states were assessed via demand and resource evaluations and cardiovascular reactivity. Performance and gaze behavior were then recorded during the first trial. Before the second trial, challenge and threat states were measured again through demand and resource evaluations and cardiovascular reactivity. A challenge state, indexed by evaluations that coping resources matched or exceeded task demands, and higher cardiac output and/or lower total peripheral resistance reactivity, was associated with superior performance, with the cardiovascular response predicting performance more strongly. Furthermore, a challenge-like cardiovascular response was related to longer quiet eye durations and lower search rates, marginally more fixations toward the goal and ball, and more time spent fixating on the goal and other locations (e.g., ground). However, none of the attentional variables mediated the relationship between challenge and threat states and performance, suggesting more research is needed to elucidate underlying mechanisms. Finally, although performing well on Trial 1 was marginally associated with evaluating the second trial as a challenge, no support was found for the other feedback loops. The findings offer partial support for the integrative framework and imply that practitioners should foster a challenge state to optimize performance under pressure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)