Professor Mark Wilson
Professor and Head of Department
Richards Building 105A
Richard's Building, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK
Mark Wilson has been at the University of Exeter since 2006 and was appointed Professor of Performance Psychology in 2017, where he is currently the Head of Department for Sport and Health Sciences. Mark is a leading expert in visuomotor skill acquisition and has an applied and theoretical interest in understanding the influence of pressure on performance, and developing training that might mitigate against these negative effects. Mark has published over 140 research articles on these topics and supervised 16 PhD students to completion. His applied research crosses boundaries (e.g., sport, surgery, military, clinical populations) and has been funded by the likes of the Economic and Social Research Council, Innovate UK, The Waterloo Foundation, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Parkinson’s UK, Intuitive Surgical, and the Football Association. As a chartered psychologist and registered practitioner with the Health and Care Professions Council, Mark works with his clients to help them perform at their best when it matters most.
1995 MEng University of Manchester
2001 MSc Manchester Metropolitan University
2005 PGCE(HE) Manchester Metropolitan University
2006 PhD Manchester Metropolitan University
05/17 – present: Professor, performance psychology, SHS, University of Exeter.
06/13 – 04/17: Associate professor, experimental psychology, SHS, University of Exeter.
06/09 – 05/13: Senior lecturer, experimental psychology, SHS, University of Exeter.
09/06 – 05/09: Lecturer, experimental psychology, SHS, University of Exeter.
09/04 – 08/06: Research fellow, motor control, Neural and Visual Control of Movement Research Line, Institute for Biophysical and Clinical Research into Human Movement, Manchester Metropolitan University.
09/01 – 08/04: Lecturer, sport psychology, Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University.
09/95 – 08/99: Project manager and production engineer, Birds Eye Wall’s, Unilever Ltd.
04/10 – 10/10: Visiting associate professor in motor learning, Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong.
Research group links
I have an applied and theoretical interest in understanding the influence of stress and anxiety on performance, and developing training that might mitigate against these negative effects. A major focus of this work has been the study of objective measures of visual attention (primarily using mobile gaze tracking technology) and cardio-vascular responses to stress. These insights have resulted in the development of theory to explain why visuomotor performance breaks down (e.g. attetional control theory:sport; with Michael Eysenck).
Applied research has focused on helping individuals cheat the learning curve via training that seeks to improve generic cognitive performance (working memory) or task relevant information processing (via video-based eye movement training or more recently VR).
- Performance improvement via gaze training (Quiet eye / Feed forward eye movement training): Recent (and current) projects have examined how training accurate gaze behaviour can expedite the performance of visuomotor skills (and help them be more robust under pressure) in tasks as varied as laparoscopic surgery, military marksmanship, golf putting and penalty taking.
- Neuro-rehabilitation: Current projects are examining the efficacy of quiet eye training for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (with Greg Wood ) and implicit motor learning interventions for stroke (with colleagues at M-I-N-D) and Parkinson’s patients (with Will Young).
- Stress appraisals: Recent projects have examined the role of stress appraisals (challenge and threat states) on performance in sporting, aviation and medical environments. Current work is looking at the efficacy of interventions designed to re-appraise physiological symptoms.
- Youth sport development: Recent projects with both the RFU and the FA have examined the role of competition in youth sport development, and a current project explores factors underpinning talent development in a football academy.
- Simulation (Human Factors): Recent projects have explored the role of simulation in supporting the learning of visuomotor skills (in surgical, military and aviation environments).
Theoretical / Fundamental Research:
- The anxiety-performance relationship: Current collaborations are developing theoretical explanations for choking in sport (with Prof Eysenck and with Dr Vine); the role of attentional control and working memory in mediating this relationship (with Prof Derakshan); and the (dis)functional role of reinvestment (with Prof Masters).
- The causal role of quiet eye: Current PhD projects are attempting to further our understanding of how the quiet eye helps to support visuomotor performance. Collaborations are ongoing with Prof Vickers, and Prof Ring.
In total, I have been involved in successfully capturing over £2m of funding since 2008 (>£800k as principal, or senior investigator) for research into the learning and performance of motor skills.
- 04/2017 – 10/2021: Psychological characteristics underpinning talent development in a football academy. Joint funded PhD with Exeter City Football Club and University of Exeter (Principal Investigator).
- 02/2017 – 04/2018: Using analogies to overcome freezing of gait: A first step towards making the first step. Parkinson’s UK Small Grants Scheme (Co-investigator with Dr Will Young, Brunel).
- 01/2017 – 06/2017: Development of a school-based skill learning intervention for children with motor coordination difficulties. ESRC Impact Acceleration Account: Impact Cultivation Award Principal Investigator).
- 11/2016 – 03/2018: TIN 3.233. Feed forward eye movement training for room clearance and parachuting. Defence Human Capability Science and Technology Centre (DHCSTC: Principal Investigator).
- 09/2016 – 06/2018: TIN 3.215. Identification and evaluation of tools to enhance cognitive performance? Defence Human Capability Science and Technology Centre (DHCSTC: Co-Investigator with Dr Sam Vine, Exeter).
- 09/2016 – 06/2017: Observational learning of surgical skills on the da Vinci system. Intuitive Surgical Research Grants Scheme. (Co-Investigator with Dr Gavin Buckingham, Exeter).
- 07/2016 – 12/2016: The development of immersive human factors training for safety critical and high performance industries. ESRC Impact Acceleration Account: Impact Cultivation Award (Co-Investigator with Dr Sam Vine, Exeter).
- 12/2015 – 12/2016: Athletes' Goal-Directed Attentional Control under Pressure. China Social Science Funding (Co-investigator, with Prof Liwei Zhang, Beijing Sports University)
- 06/2015 – 12/2015: Developing evidence based training for surgeons. ESRC Impact Acceleration Account: Impact cultivation award (Co-investigator with Dr Sam Vine, Exeter).
- 05/2015 – 05/2019: The power of implicit motor learning 2.0: Improving walking with implicit motor learning strategies and simple technologies in people with cognitive impairments after stroke. RAAK-PRO, Stichting Innovatie Alliantie (SIA), The Netherlands. (Co-Investigator with Dr Susy Braun). www.m-i-n-d.org
- 05/2015 – 10/2016: TIN 3.152. Can parachuting skills be improved by the use of feed forward eye movement training? Part 1 - A Review. Defence Human Capability Science and Technology Centre (DHCSTC: Principal Investigator).
- 02/2015 – 02/2016: Human Factors in Aviation. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) Project Co-Creation Fund. (Co-investigator with Dr Sam Vine, Exeter).
- 01/2015 – 01/2016: Does quiet eye training improve visuomotor planning and control in children with DCD II – A group-based intervention (Extension Project). HEFCE (Liverpool Hope University; Co-investigator with Dr Greg Wood) and The Waterloo Foundation (Principal Investigator).
- 09/2014 - 08/2017: Reappraising stress to induce a challenge state. PhD funded by Commonwealth Fund. (Co-investigator with Dr Sam Vine, University of Exeter)
- 09/2014 – 07/2015: Growing grass roots football in England. The Football Association. (Principal Investigator).
- 02/2014 - 01/2017: Talent identification and development in a Football Academy. Joint funded PhD by Exeter City Football Club, The Open Innovation Platform, and University of Exeter (Principal Investigator).
- 09/2012 – 08/2014: Does quiet eye training improve visuomotor planning and control in children with DCD? The Waterloo Foundation (Principal Investigator).
- 04/2012 – 06/2014: Facilitating Movement Implicitly (FMI): Implicit motor learning in patients with cognitive impairments: Framework, strategies and tools. RAAK-International Project, Stichting Innovatie Alliantie (SIA), The Netherlands. (Co-Investigator with Dr Susy Braun). www.m-i-n-d.org
- 09/2013 – 09/2015: Examining allocation of attention and gaze behaviour as a function of movement specific reinvestment in older Hong Kong adults at risk of falling. General Research Fund, Research Grants Council, Hong Kong (Co-Investigator with Prof Rich Masters, HKU).
- 02/2013 – 04/2014: The da Vinci robot vs. conventional laparoscopy: Examining benefits for the surgeon. Intuitive Surgical Research Grants Scheme. (Co-Investigator with Dr Sam Vine, Exeter).
- 10/2012 – 12/2013: TIN 3.012. Training for small arms operators: Developing methods to assess and improve performance in a simulated maritime environment. Defence Human Capability Science and Technology Centre (DHCSTC: Principal Investigator).
- 10/2010 - 09/2013: Developmentally appropriate rugby union. ESRC Case studentship (with the Rugby Football Union) via the University of Exeter’s Capacity Building Cluster in Sport, Leisure and Tourism (Principal Investigator).
- 08/2010 – 02/2012: Human factors in simulated surgery. Surgical research fellow funding from Exeter Surgical Health Services Research Unit, Exeter RD&E NHS Foundation Trust (Co-Investigator with Mr John McGrath / Research lead).
- 01/2010 – 06/2010: Gaze control training for golfers. ESRC Business Voucher, via the University of Exeter’s Capacity Building Cluster in Sport, Leisure and Tourism (RES-187-24-0002). (Principal Investigator).
- 01/2010 – 09/2010: UK-China Fellowships for Excellence Grant; Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, UK.
- 10/2009 – 06/2011: Gaze strategies of laparoscopy surgeons: Observational learning, implicit knowledge and performance in demanding conditions. ESRC – RGC (Hong Kong) Bilateral: RES-000-22-3016
- 11/2008 – 10/2009: Appraisal of RFU youth development programme. (Rugby Football Development Ltd, Rugby Football Union (Principal Investigator).
Publications by category
Publications by year
External Engagement and Impact
2008: Philip Read Memorial Award for Recently Qualified Researcher in Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES): For published research of outstanding merit made by a recently qualified researcher in the field of sport and/or exercise sciences.
2010: Honorary Associate Professor, University of Hong Kong
British Psychological Society (BPS): Chartered Psychologist and member of the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology (since 2007).
Registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) of Practitioner Psychologists (since 2009).
Member of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Peer Review College (since 2010).
2016 – 2017 Guest co-editor (with Prof Vince Walsh) for two volumes of Progress in Brain Research: ‘Sport and the Brain: The science of preparing, enduring and winning.’
2015 – 2016 Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (Associate Editor)
2013 – current European Journal of Sports Sciences (Section Editor / Associate Editor)
2012 – current Journal of Motor Learning and Development (Editorial Board)
2010 – current Frontiers in Movement Science and Sport Psychology (Associate Editor)
May, 2017. Quiet eye training as a form of observational learning. Research in Imagery and Observation (RIO) Group Annual Meeting (http://riogroup.weebly.com/). University of Roehampton, UK.
November, 2016. Rising to the challenge. The psychology of stress in surgery. South West Annual Anaesthetic Conference, Exeter, UK.
November 2015. The role of competition in youth football. Football Association Youth Leagues Conference, St George’s Park, Burton-on-Trent, UK.
September 2015. Applying psychological research to practice. New Zealand Medical Sciences Congress 2015, Queenstown, New Zealand.
April 2015. Quiet eye training for elite sport. 6th International Sports Science and Sports Medicine conference, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 20-22nd April.
May 2014. Surgical stress during surgery: A neglected impact factor on surgery outcome. Keynote for panel discussion at the 2014 European Hernia Society Congress, Edinburgh, UK.
November 2013. Quiet eye, and attentional control under pressure. InterACTs (International Archery Coaching and Training Seminar), Brussels, Belgium.
May 2011. Perceptual-motor coordination in sport and surgery. Australasian Skill Acquisition Research Group (ASARG) Conference, Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Invited Lectures (International)
August 2016. Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, Chinese University of Hong Kong
August 2016. School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia
May 2016. Sport Sciences College, Beijing Sport University, China.
October 2015. Department of Health, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. (RAAK Grant kick off meeting).
May 2014. Department of Health, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. (Symposium; Physical activity: Stimulating a healthy lifestyle).
April 2014. Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam. The Netherlands (Mini- symposium; Effect of exercise and mental stress on operational performance).
February 2014. Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern’s Winter Academy Symposium, Switzerland.
October 2013. Institute of Sport Science, University of Bern, Switzerland.
April 2012. Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University Amsterdam. The Netherlands.
September 2010. Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, SAR China.
Invited Lectures (National)
January 2017. Simulation and Patient Safety Programme, Torbay Hospital, Devon, (Annually since 2014).
February 2016. Perception and Motion Analysis Group, Psychology, Oxford Brookes University.
December 2014. Cognition and Neuroscience Research Group, Department of Life Sciences, Brunel University, London, UK.
July 2014. School of Sport, Health & Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, UK.
May 2013. British Psychology Society, ‘Psychology in the Pub’ lectures series, St James’ Park, Exeter.
May 2013. Frontiers in Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine Seminar Series, Brunel University, UK.
May 2012. Institute of Sport, Physical Education, and Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK.
May 2012. Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Chichester, UK.
November 2011. British Psychological Society, South West of England Branch Annual General Meeting, Exeter, UK.
March 2011. Exeter Surgical Health Services Research Unit Launch, Exeter, UK.
December 2010. Exeter Eye Tracking Interest Group (ExETIG), School of Psychology, University of Exeter, UK.
December, 2009. First Southwest Laparoscopic Masterclass, LapCo, Plymouth, UK.
January, 2009. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.
Invited Symposia Presentations
May (2016). Stress and motor performance. Presenting as part of the ‘High performance brain function’ symposium at the Elevate Seminar Program – The arena of exercise, health and future performance. London Olympia, UK.
September (2015). “Use your illusion”: Influencing spatial cognition and action. Oral paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: Spatial Cognition and Action, Rome, Italy, The Quiet Eye As an Objective Measure of Situated and/or Spatial Cognition; convened by Prof Joan Vickers.
July 2015. Challenge and Threat states, Attentional Control and Performance: The Development of a Stress-Performance Model. Oral paper presented at the 14th European Congress of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC), Bern, Switzerland, as part of a symposium: Attention, Visuo-Motor Control and Performing under Pressure: Implications for Theory and Practice; convened by Dr Arne Nieuwenhuys.
July 2014. Quiet eye training in sport. Oral paper presented at the 2014 European Congress of Sports Sciences (ECSS) Annual Meeting, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as part of a symposium: Perceptual training in sport; convened by Prof. Raul Oudejans.
June 2012. Quiet eye, quiet head, quiet hand or quiet heart: The four horsemen of human motor performance? Oral paper presented at the 2012 NASPSPA Conference, Hawaii, as part of a symposium: New advances in the quiet eye phenomenon from research in neuroscience, centre of pressure (COP) and surgery; convened by Prof. Joan Vickers.
July 2011. On winning the ‘lottery’! Developing perceived control in soccer penalty takers. Oral paper presented at the 13th European Congress of Sport Psychology, Madeira, Portugal, as part of a symposium: Influences on decision making in the penalty kick; convened by Prof. Geert Savelsbergh.
July 2011. Gaze training improves performance and resistance to distractions in a virtual reality laparoscopic surgery task. Oral paper presented at the 13th European Congress of Sport Psychology, Madeira, Portugal, as part of a symposium: Perception in action: The mediating role of perception in elite performance; convened by Dr. Johannes Koedijker.
September 2009. Visuo-motor control in far aiming tasks: Re-examining the location suppression hypothesis. Oral paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: Spatial Cognition and Action, Rome, Italy, as part of a symposium: Gaze and cognitive control in motor performance; convened by Prof. Joan Vickers.
2014: Stress and penalty shootouts.
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04584td (5-Live’s, The ultimate guide to World Cup penalty shootouts)
2013: Developing mini-rugby
2012: Surgery robotics
2011: Gaze-training in surgery
2010: Putting with a quiet eye
2010: Why England lose on penalties.
2006: Distractions while driving with a Sat Nav.
December 2013. Using mobile eye-trackers in sport psychology and skill acquisition. British Psychological Society, Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology Conference, Manchester, UK; with Drs Matt Dicks, Jenny Page, and Sam Vine (as representatives of the Expertise Skill Acquisition Network).
Skill Acquisition (ESS2507)
I developed and teach all of the content on this optional 2nd year module (~100 students). Skill acquisition is the study of our ability to acquire and develop movement skills. This module provides a contemporary theoretical framework for understanding how performers progress from novice performers early in learning with low levels of skill to expert performers who have mastered their skills. These principles of motor control and skill acquisition also underpin the acquisition of everyday life skills and are therefore applicable to diverse areas in rehabilitation and ergonomics. In this module we consider how this theory and experimental work can be utilised in terms of applied skill acquisition.
Current Issues in Sport and Exercise Psychology (M023)
I teach on the second half of this module, which explores current issues in Sport Psychology, such as perceptual-cognitive expertise, choking under pressure, applied sport psychology, and talent identification.
Information not currently available
Supervision / Group
- Dr Sadie Hollins (2014-15) Funded by the Football Association (FA) to explore the influence of the FA's youth development review on the attitudes and behaviours of key stakeholders involved in youth football.
- Dr Takayuki Murayama (2014-15) Visiting Fellow from Kanazawa University
- Dr Greg Wood (The Waterloo Foundation)
- Adam Kelly - Talent Development in Elite Youth Football.
- Brad Cooper
- Manu Ducrocq (Birkbeck College, London) - Attentional control training in tennis ( joint supervisor with Prof Nazanin Derakshan).
- David Harris - Flow and attentional control.
- Don Lee - The role of the quiet eye in golf putting: Exploring mechanisms.
- Dr Neha Malhotra - Research fellow at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.
- Dr Charlotte (Lottie) Miles - Research fellow at Liverpool Hope University.
- Dr Lee Moore - Lecturer at Gloucester University.
- Katie Payne - Anxiety, attention and performance.
- Nadine Sammy - Stress-reappraisals and challenge states.
- Guoxiao Sun (Beijing Sports University) - Quiet eye and visuomotor performance (joint supervisor with Prof Liwei Zhang)
- Dr Gethin Thomas - Lecturer at Cardiff Met University.
- Liis Uiga - Reinvestment and gaze behavior in elderly adults (University of Hong Kong - joint supervised with Prof Rich Masters).
- Dr Sam Vine - Senior Lecturer here in Sport and Health Sciences.
- Rosanna Walters-Symons - Quiet eye and visual attention
- Dr Greg Wood - Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University.