We examined whether basketball throwing performance in general and motor skill specificity from the free throw distance in particular are influenced by visual contextual information. Experienced basketball players (N = 36) performed basketball set shots at five distances from the basket. Of particular interest was the performance from the free throw distance (4.23 m), at which experienced basketball players are expected to show superior performance compared with nearby locations as a result of massive amounts of practice. Whereas a control group performed the shots on a regular basketball court, the distance between the rim and the free throw line was either increased or decreased by 30 cm in two experimental groups. Findings showed that only the control group had a superior performance from the free throw distance, and the experimental groups did not. Moreover, all groups performed more accurately from the perceived free throw line (independent of its location) compared with nearby locations. The findings suggest that visual context information influences the presence of specificity effects in experienced performers. The findings have theoretical implications for explaining the memory representation underlying the especial skill effect in basketball.
Tino Stöckel is with the Sport & Exercise Psychology Unit, Department of Sport Science, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany. Gavin Breslin is with the Sport and Exercise Science Research Institute, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK.