Distributed Attention: A Cognitive Ethnography of Instruction in Sport Settings

Dafne Muntanyola-Saura, Raúl Sánchez-García

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

6 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd How do expert trainers and athletes instruct and attend to new moves? The objective of this paper is to analize communication patterns in sports settings. We propose a pragmatic view on cognition through an integrated theoretical model. We claim that communication modalities cannot be reduced to individual minds but must be understood as distributed cognitive mechanisms among different individuals and resources. We compare two case studies, an aikido session in the USA and Olympic synchronized swimming training in Spain with a video-aided cognitive ethnography and Conversation Analysis. By exploring these specific events we have a better understanding how athletes attend to instructions by using multiple modalities. Our findings show how trainers and athletes communicate augmented information that is not available in a self-exploratory performance. They rely on augmented information through speech, but also gesture, marking, direction of gaze and body posture. Moreover, the skills of trainers and trainees include embodied and epistemic actions. They share visual assumptions on which are the right moves. Distributed attention is at the roots of these shared and embodied skills. Distributed attention is a type of distributed cognition in sports trainings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-454
JournalJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • cognitive ethnography
  • distributed cognition
  • intersubjectivity
  • multimodality
  • skill
  • sports


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