University of Calgary

Joan Vickers

  • Professor Emerita of Kinesiology

Research Interests

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology
Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology


1984 Doctorate Educational Psychology, U. of British Columbia (interdisciplinary perception and cognition, educational psychology, motor learning and control)
1976 Masters of Science, Faculty of Education, U. of Calgary (interdisciplinary education, kinesiology, psychology)
1970 Certified Teacher Level 5, Province of Alberta
1966 Certified Teacher Level 4, Province of New Brunswick
1966 Bachelors of Physical Education, U. of New Brunswick


A. Cognition, Gaze and Motor Behaviour

he goal of my research program is to understand how vision controls and modulates motor behaviour. One of the challenges in this area is to determine if visual invariants underlie expertise in sport and other motor activities. Invariants are aspects of one’s gaze and/or motor behaviour that remain relatively unchanged even as the context or other parameters vary. A potential invariant of higher levels of motor performance is a gaze called the “quiet eye”. The quiet eye has four characteristics – it is directed to a critical location or object in the performance space; its onset occurs before the final movement common to all performers of the skill; its duration tends to be longer for elite performers; and it is stable, confirming the need for an optimal focus prior to the final execution of the skill. The processing of quiet eye information and the ability to self-regulate cognitive and emotional activity are key to the successful execution of motor skills, not only in sport but also in everyday skills like locomotion and in disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). When a performer is anxious or upset, then their normal ability to attend is lost with negative effects on their quiet eye and performance.

B. Motor Learning and Control: Decision Training In Sport

The ability to make effective decisions, especially under conditions of stress, is a characteristic sought by all sports performers. Decision training is a second major research area of my laboratory and is designed to improve the athlete’s ability to make effective decisions when under competitive stress. A decision trainer assumes that the necessary perceptual and cognitive skills must be present before motor skills and tactics can be performed in a consistent and reliable way. For this reason, coaches and other professionals are taught how to design decision training practices that help the athlete learn how to better anticipate what is going to happen, to focus and attend to critical cues, and overall become a more effective decision maker in the field of play. The gaze behaviour program plays a major role in decision training, as it provides valuable insights into how elite athlete control their focus and make decisions, information that can be shared with others in the training context.

Awards and Honours

Visiting Professor, Faculté des Sciences du Sport de Marseille, France
Invited Academic of the Year, Department of Sport Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Visiting Professor, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Insitiuto de Education, Rio Claro, Brazil
Chairman’s Award for Excellence in Psychological Research in Sport Science, International Olympic Committee (IOC), Atlanta, Georgia
Elected Member, American Academy of Kinesiology
Young Scientist of the Year, Canadian Society of Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology


To view Joan N. Vicker's publications please see her Curriculum Vitae (PDF format)

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