Research Article: Expertise differences in anticipatory judgements during a temporally and spatially occluded task

Date Published: February 7, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Joe Causer, Nicholas J. Smeeton, A. Mark Williams, Jaime Sampaio.


There is contradictory evidence surrounding the role of critical cues in the successful anticipation of penalty kicks in soccer. In the current study, skilled and less-skilled soccer goalkeepers were required to anticipate when viewing penalty kicks that were both spatially (full body; hip region) and temporally (–160 ms, –80 ms before, foot–ball contact) occluded. The skilled group outperformed the less-skilled group in all conditions. Participants performed better in the full body condition when compared to hip region condition. Performance in the hip only condition was significantly better than chance for the skilled group across all occlusion conditions. However, the less-skilled group were no better than chance in the hip condition for the early occlusion points when predicting direction and height. Later temporal occlusion conditions were associated with increased performance both in the correct response and correct direction analyses, but not for correct height. These data suggest that postural information solely from the hip region may be used by skilled goalkeepers to make accurate predictions of penalty kick direction, however, information from other sources are needed in order to make predictions of height. Findings demonstrate how the importance of anticipation cues evolve over time, which has implications for the design of training programs to enhance perceptual-cognitive skill.

Partial Text

In sport, the inherent limitations in reaction time and movement time necessitates that athletes anticipate or predict future events based on limited preparatory information [1]. In order to effectively deal with such constraints, athletes possess a wide range of perceptual-cognitive skills, including the ability to: recognize advance (i.e., early arising) visual information (or cues); identify patterns/structure in play; and develop an awareness of likely event probabilities [2]. An expert athlete can limit the volume of information processed to generate a perceptual representation by selectively attending to more pertinent cues [3]. Furthermore, task-specific knowledge developed through experience is thought to help expert players look at these more important areas of the environment, using previous experiences to develop situational probabilities and allowing more effective processing of contextual information [4].

Our aim in this study was to examine the effect of expertise on the accuracy of anticipatory judgments during temporally and spatially occluded soccer penalty kicks. It was hypothesized that there would be significant performance decrements for both groups in the spatially occluded condition, compared to the full body condition [21]. It was also predicted that the skilled group would perform significantly better than the less-skilled group in all conditions [22]. Finally, we predicted that both groups would perform significantly better in the later temporal occlusion conditions, compared to the earlier conditions [20, 23].




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