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保持专注的心理机制

更新时间:2018-7-12 20:55:51 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why athletes need a 'quiet eye'
保持专注的心理机制

If anyone knows how to grab a victory from the jaws of defeat, it’s Serena Williams. Just consider her semi-final against Kim Clijsters at the 2003 Australian Open. At 5-2 down in the final set, she was within a hair’s breadth of losing her place in the tournament. But rather than slipping into despair, she saved two match points before winning the next five games. Somehow, each serve and each return landed just where she wanted them to – and she would ultimately go on to win the whole tournament.

要问 "绝境逢生"是什么滋味,小威(Serena Williams)绝对最清楚。2003年澳网半决赛上,她对阵小克(Kim Clijsters)。决胜盘她2-5落后,在生死一发之间,她并没有陷入绝望,而是接连挽救两个赛点,再连胜五局逆转小克。不知为何,她每一次的发球与回球都落在她想在的地方——最终,她在这届澳网夺冠并揽下大满贯。

A single such feat would be an exceptional occurrence in any career, but Williams has since made similarly breath-taking comebacks at the Australian Open in 2005, at Wimbledon in 2009, and at the China Open in 2014, managing to pull back even when her opponents are serving a match point. In each case, the extreme pressure, rather than causing her to crumble, only seemed to sharpen her concentration.

任何人的职业生涯中有一次这样的壮举已属罕见,何况小威在2005年澳网、2009年温网与2014年中网上,都上演了类似的惊天大逆转,哪怕对手手握赛点,她也能扳回来。每一次,极端的压力并没有将她压垮,而只是令她更加专注了。

Psychologists and neuroscientists have now identified some of the common mental processes that mark out elite athletes such as Williams. And one of the most intriguing aspects appears to be a phenomenon known as the “quiet eye” – a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move. Intriguingly, quiet eye appears to be particularly important at times of stress, preventing the athlete from ‘choking’ at moments of high pressure. It may even lead to the mysterious ‘flow state’.

心理学与神经学家发现像小威这样的优秀运动员们有一些共通的心理机制。"静眼"则是其中最有意思的现象之一,它指的是一种增强的视觉感知,能让运动员在下一步动作前排除干扰。有趣的是,研究人员发现静眼在高度紧张的状态下显得尤为重要,它能防止运动员在面临巨大压力时表现失常(choking, 在心理学中被定义为"压力条件下,一种习惯的运动执行过程发生衰变的现象") ,甚至能帮助运动员们进入神秘的"心流"状态(flow, 心理学上的指的是"一种将个人精神力完全投注在某种活动上的感觉")。

It’s not just budding sportsmen and sportswomen who should take note. The same laser-sharp focus can help doctors maintain their focus as they perform keyhole surgery, and it is of increasing interest to the military.

这一现象不仅仅值得初出茅庐的运动员们关注,注意力高度集中同样也能够帮助医生在完成高精密度的微创手术时保持专注;乃至军方对这一心理机制也越来越有兴趣。

“There is a small window of opportunity for the motor system to receive information from the eyes,” explains Sam Vine at the University of Exeter. “And experts have found a better way to optimise that window and to keep that window [open], which helps their movements to be really accurate and really precise.”

来自英国埃克塞特大学(University of Exeter)的瓦因教授(Sam Vine)解释说:"运动系统接受视觉信息时,有一个稍纵即逝的窗口期。而专家们找到一种好办法优化窗口期并使之持续时间更长,这利于他们做到动作精准无误。"

Unexplored territories

未开发的领域

The concept of quiet eye originates with the personal experiences of a kinesiologist called Joan Vickers. As a student in sports science – and a keen athlete herself – Vickers always had been interested in how our athletic talents vary so much from day to day.

静眼的概念起源于人体运动学家维克斯(Joan Vickers)的个人经历。作为一名体育科学专业的学生,她本人也爱好运动——维克斯一直对人类运动天赋的起伏变化很感兴趣。

While playing on the university basketball team, for instance, she once scored an extraordinary 27 points within the first half of a match. Another time, she had a stunning winning streak while serving for the university volleyball team. But both miraculous performances were one-offs – each time, her magic touch disappeared the next day.

c举例来说,她在大学篮球队期间,曾在一场比赛上半场独砍27分,成绩相当优异。她还曾为大学排球队取得过惊人的连胜纪录。但这两次奇迹般的表现似乎都是一次性的——每次她身上的魔力第二天就消失了。

“It kept on running around my head – how could I have done that? Physically I didn’t change,” she says. On the other hand, why were the elite athletes she envied not only so good, but also so consistent?

维克斯说,"'我究竟是怎么做到的?'这问题一直在我心头萦绕。从身体状况来看我并没有什么改变。"再者,为何她欣羡的那些优秀的运动员不仅能表现优异,还能做到次次如此?

Embarking on a PhD at the University of British Columbia, Vickers began to suspect the secret lay in the way that elite athletes see the world. She hooked a group of professional golfers up to a device that precisely monitored their eye movements as they putted their balls. She found an intriguing correlation: the better the player (as measured by their golfing handicap) the longer and steadier their gaze on the ball just before, and then during, their strike. Novices, by contrast, tended to shift their focus between different areas of the scene, with each fixation lasting for shorter periods of time.

当时在加拿大不列颠哥伦比亚大学(University of British Columbia)攻读博士学位的维克斯提出假设:秘密藏在优秀运动员对外界的视觉处理方式上。她给一群职业高尔夫球手配备了一种装置,在球员击球时它能精确监控他们的眼球运动。她发现一个有趣的关联:水平越高的球员(以他们的让杆数来衡量),在击球前和击球时,对球的注视时间会越长且越沉稳。相比之下,新手的注意力往往会转移到场内的其他区域,每次盯着球看的时间也更短。

To see this process in action, watch the following video (courtesy of the University of Exeter’s Sam Vine). You will see how the golfer’s gaze is jumpy to start with, before fixating on one side of the ball as they take their putt.

关于此动态过程,欲了解更多,请观看下面这段视频(视频由埃克塞特大学的瓦因提供)。视频中,你能看到这名高尔夫球手一开始目光跳跃,但击球时,眼神则聚焦在球的一侧。

The general idea that you should ‘keep your eye on the ball’ is well-known, of course – but this suggested something more intricate, with the precise onset and duration of the gaze correlating with an objective measure of sporting success.

当然众所周知,俚语中就有"盯着球看"(keep your eye on the ball,有"全神贯注"之意)一说,但它背后蕴含的东西更为复杂,衡量运动是否成功的客观指标与静眼凝视的精准起始时间及持续时间存在一定的相关性。

The finding was also at odds with the equally prevalent assumption that expertise comes from more rapid mental processing. According Vickers’ results, the expert athlete actually slowed down their thinking at the crucial moment.

这一发现与同样普遍的另一假设相冲突。有假说认为,专业水准意味着更为快速的心理处理过程。而据维克斯的研究结果显示,真正的运动高手在关键时刻会放慢思考。

“I knew I was seeing something that no one had ever seen before,” says Vickers, now a professor at the University of Calgary. “I felt like Columbus or the Vikings.”

目前在加拿大卡尔加里(University of Calgary)担任教授的维克斯说:"我想我发现了前人未发现的东西,那感觉就像哥伦布或维京人发现了新大陆。"

The quiet eye has since been observed in many other sports, including basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, archery, and ice hockey. Needless to say, the exact location of the gaze depends on the task in question. During a free throw in basketball, for instance, the gaze needs to land on the front of the hoop’s rim; for a football penalty kick, it should be on the top left or right corner of the net; and for an ice hockey goalkeeper, their gaze lingers on the puck just before their opponent released it from the stick. In each case, a steadier final fixation, just before the critical moment, marks out the expert athlete, who hold their gaze for 62% longer than novices.

自那以后,研究人员在包括篮球、排球、足球、网球、射箭和冰球等多项体育运动上,观察静眼这一现象。毋庸置疑的是,运动员注视的确切位置取决于所进行的体育任务。例如,篮球罚球时,目光要落在篮筐的前缘;足球罚点球时,目光应落在球网的左上角或者右上角;而对于冰球的守门员来说,在对手用球杆把球打出来的前一瞬,就要把目光放在冰球上。无论哪一种情况,在关键时刻点前,更专注的最终凝视都会令高手脱颖而出。而这些高手凝视的平均时间比新手要长62%。

Crucially, the differences in this dwell time of the quiet eye don’t just predict the overall differences between elite and novice players; fluctuations in the onset and duration of the quiet eye can also explain lapses in the athlete’s individual performance, which would again reaffirm the idea that it is itself a critical part of the mental processes.

更至关重要的是,静眼停留时间上的差异不仅能预测出优秀选手和一般选手之间的整体差异;静眼在起始和持续时间方面的波动也能解释运动员为何发挥失常,这也再次证实了静眼本身就是运动员心理活动的重要组成部分。

Camilo Sáenz-Moncaleano, who recently examined the quiet eye in tennis players, suspects that most athletes had not made a conscious decision to change their eye movements; for many it’s probably a behaviour that they picked up implicitly. “They won’t know the name of the term, but they know how to do it,” he says. “It’s a natural thing.”

研究人员蒙卡莱亚诺(Camilo Sáenz-Moncaleano)近期对网球运动员的静眼现象进行了调查,他猜测绝大部分运动员改变自己眼球运动并非有意识的决定;对许多运动员来说,这也许是一种隐性的行为选择。他说:"运动员并不知道静眼这一术语,但他们知道怎么做。这对他们来说很自然。"

Budding athletes will be heartened to hear that the quiet eye can be taught, however. In one of the first tests of quiet eye training, Vickers took a university basketball team and hooked them up to her eye-tracking devices so that they could become more aware of their gaze as they practiced ‘free throws’.

不过,静眼是可以习得的。运动员新秀们该庆幸这点。在维克斯开展的早期的静眼训练中,她曾挑选一支大学篮球队并为他们连上眼球追踪设备,这样球员们在罚球练习时对自己的凝视也会更有意识。

As she had hoped, their performance improved – by 22% – over the next two seasons, compared to an 8% improvement in a control group. By the end of the second season, the team had reached a level of accuracy that was even higher than the NBA average.

试验结果与她预期的一致:后来的两个赛季中,这支篮球队的整体成绩提高了22%,而对照组仅提高了8%。而第二个赛季结束时,球队的命中率甚至超过了NBA的平均水平。

Psychology is, of course, replete with apparently promising interventions that have subsequently failed to replicate. But this was not just a one-off result: quiet eye training has since helped many other amateur and professional athletes – including national volleyball teams and Olympic skeet shooters – to achieve their potential.

不过心理学中很多干预手段都是一开始前景无限光明,但后来却难以批量复制。可维克斯的试验并非是一次性的:静眼训练已帮助许多业余及职业运动员发挥个人潜能,当中甚至包括国家排球队队员、奥运射击选手等。

A recent meta-analysis confirms that the quiet eye is a strong and highly consistent effect. In 2017, the European Journal of Sport Science devoted a whole issue to exploring the phenomenon.

最近的一项元分析研究也证实,静眼的效果强有力且高度一致。2017年,《欧洲体育科学杂志》(European Journal of Sport Science)用了整整一期来探讨静眼现象。

Surgical precision

手术精度

Given these striking results, the scientists have now started considering applications beyond elite sports. A University of Exeter study, for instance, has found that quiet eye training can help children with coordination problems improve their physical abilities, contradicting a commonly held belief that they instead suffered from some problem with the motor system itself. The team are also conducting some (currently classified) research with the military.

鉴于这些引人注目的研究结果,科学家们正考虑将静眼的相关应用拓展到体育运动圈外。例如,埃克塞特大学的一项研究发现,静眼训练可以帮助身体协调能力差的儿童改善体能。该结论与这些儿童的运动系统本身就有问题这一普遍观点相矛盾。此研究小组还在与军方共同开展一些研究(具体研究保密)。

Vickers welcomes these attempts to elaborate on her initial research. “I feel really proud of that group in Exeter – they’ve really taken the ball and run with it,” she says.

维克斯对这些基于她先期研究所做的诸多进一步的尝试持欢迎态度。她说:"我由衷地为埃克塞特大学的那个研究团队感到自豪——他们成功接棒并且做得很棒!"

Her research has shown that quiet eye training also could accelerate doctors’ learning of new skills. Her group recently measured the gazes of expert surgeons and then trained a group of first-year residents to mimic their eye movements – including the longer fixations that are characteristic of the quiet eye. Based on the assessment of independent surgeons, the measure appeared to have accelerated the doctor’s learning and improved their overall accuracy, compared to a control group given a more traditional technical training.

维克斯的研究还表明,静眼训练能加速医生新技能习得。她带领的研究团队近期开展的一项实验中,他们首先对外科专家医生的目光凝视进行了测量;然后训练一组一年级住院医生模仿他们的眼球运动如具有静眼特征的长时间凝视等。训练期结束后,据独立手术的效果评估显示,相比以传统技术方式开展训练的对照组,试验组的学习能力更强,整体准确率也更高。

Given that the differences in quiet eye can last a fraction of a second, the current training relies on the feedback from expensive gaze-tracking equipment, meaning that the benefits are currently out of most people’s reach. Sáenz-Moncaleano, however, points out the technology is developing rapidly. It’s possible that future progress in consumer technology might open up quiet eye training for everyone. “The merge of VR and eye tracking could be a game changer,” he says.

由于静眼的差异可能仅仅有几十毫秒,目前的静眼训练大多依赖于昂贵的目光跟踪设备的反馈,这意味着这一训练与大多数人无缘。但蒙卡莱亚诺指出,科技正迅猛发展,未来消费者技术的进步也许能让每个人受益,都能进行静眼训练。他表示:"虚拟现实和眼球追踪的技术融合或许会带来颠覆。"

In the meantime, many of the scientists are aiming to build their theoretical understanding of the phenomenon, which remains somewhat hazy. This is partly due to the practical difficulties of looking deeper inside the athlete’s brain as they practice their sport; we don’t yet have accurate fMRI scanners portable enough to take to training sessions, for instance, that might help pinpoint neurological mechanisms.

与此同时,许多科学家正致力于构建这一现象的理论理解,但很多地方尚不清楚。这在一定程度上是由于在运动员运动时深入地探究他们的大脑有很高的操作难度;举个例子,要精准识别神经运动机制,就需要能运用到训练中便携而准确的核磁共振成像扫描仪,这样的设备目前没有。

Even so, the scientists broadly agree that it revolves around advanced intelligence gathering. As Sáenz-Moncaleano puts it, the quiet eye allows you to “soak in all the information from the object in question” which “helps you to produce the best motor response”.

即便如此,科学家们仍普遍认为,静眼与大脑的高级情报收集有密切关系。正如蒙卡莱亚诺所说,静眼能帮助"汲取一切与目标对象相关的信息",从而"给出最佳运动反应"。

And the very latest research would suggest that this period of focus is especially crucial in high-stakes situations, preventing the athlete from ‘choking’.

最新研究表明,在高风险情境中,期间保持专注尤其重要,可规避运动员关键时刻发挥失常"。

To induce anxiety in a group of basketball players practicing free throws, for instance, Vine told participants that their results would be actively compared to others and could be presented to other students. Adding to the stress, the team later offered some false feedback during the test, telling the participants that their last 40 shots were so bad they had landed them in the bottom 30% and that if they did not improve, they would have to be excluded from the study.

举例来说,瓦因会在研究中有意告诉一组正做罚球练习的篮球运动员,他们的投篮结果会与其他人做比较,还会公布出来,这样令球员们产生焦虑情绪。为了增加额外的压力,研究团队还会在实验中给到一些不真实的反馈,告诉球员们最后的40次投篮表现极差,已掉入最差的30%里,如果成绩再无提高就要被研究小组除名了。

Most participants’ accuracy dropped sharply after the poor feedback. But this was not true for the people who had previously undergone quiet eye training: they managed to set the negative thoughts to one side and maintain a high level of performance.

面对表现不佳的反馈,绝大多数参与者的准确度都会急剧下降。而那些接受过静眼训练的球员却不同:他们能把负面思绪放一边,继续保持高水平的发挥。

Even more intriguingly, the Exeter researchers have found that the quiet eye duration correlates with self-reported feelings of ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ – the sensation of effortless concentration, in which your mind is clear of everything except the task at hand. The quiet eye also seems to coincide to other physiological changes throughout the body. The heart rate temporarily decelerates, for instance, and the movement of the limbs themselves become smoother. All of this might seem to support the idea that the quiet eye filters distraction and calms the mind and the body at the critical moment, even under stress.

更有趣的是,埃克塞特大学的研究人员发现,静眼的持续时间与参与者自我反馈的"心流"状态或"得心应手"的感觉(这种状态下,大脑能抛开一切只专注于眼前的任务,注意力高度集中却不费力)呈相关性。静眼似乎也与身体的其他生理变化同步,例如,心率会暂时下降,四肢运动变得更加流畅。而一切发现也证实了这样一种观点,即哪怕面临重重压力,静眼能在关键时刻过滤掉使人分心的事物,让大脑和身体平静下来。

Vine cautions that we should be wary of assigning too much importance to the quiet eye; many other factors will contribute to sporting genius. But it would certainly seem to be a key component of the extreme focus that athletes such as Williams often describe. And these psychological factors are worth emphasising – particularly given that many commentators still focus on physical strength without acknowledging the incredible mental resilience of athletes such as Williams.

瓦因教授提醒道,我们不应把静眼看得过重;一个人之所以成为体育天才有很多因素左右。但静眼肯定是达到小威这样的运动员所经常描述的"极致专注"状态的关键因素之一。目前许多体育评论员仅关注运动员的身体素质而忽略像小威这样拥有的强大心理韧性,可我们要知道心理因素同样值得被重视。

Williams herself is under no illusions about what is most important.

小威倒是很清楚她致胜最重要的因素是什么。

“I’ve won most of my matches – probably all of my grand slams – because of what’s upstairs, not anything else,” she told Sports Illustrated in 2015. A large part of that may be the kind of calm focus that comes from the quiet eye.

2015年接受《体育画报》(Sports Illustrated)的采访时,小威表示:"我之所以能赢得了大部分比赛——我参加过的几乎所有大满贯赛事——都是因为脑力作用,没什么别的原因。"而她强大冷静的专注力很大一部分正是来自于静眼。

“If you are behind in a game, it’s so important to relax, and that’s what I do – when I’m behind in a game, that’s when I become most relaxed,” she added. “Just focus on one point at a time… just that sole point, and then the next one, and the next one.”

但她还补充道,"比赛处于落后状态时,最重要的是放松。我自己就是这么做的,落后的时刻就是我最放松的时刻。每次只关注一个点……就那么一个点,再下一个,还再下一个。"

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