In association football, the flash-lag effect appears to be a viable explanation for erroneous offside decision making. Due to this spatiotemporal illusion, assistant referees (ARs) perceive the player who receives the ball ahead of his real position. In this experiment, a laboratory decision-making task was used to demonstrate that international top-class ARs, compared with amateur soccer players, do not have superior perceptual sensitivity. They clearly modify their decision criterion according to the contextual needs and, therefore, show a higher response bias toward not responding to the stimulus, in particular in the most difficult situations. Thus, international ARs show evidence for response-level compensation, resulting in a specific cost (i.e., more misses), which clearly reflects the use of particular (cognitive) strategies. In summary, it appears that experts in offside decision making can be distinguished from novices more on the cognitive or decision-making level than on the perceptual level.
Koen Put is with the Department of Kinesiology, Movement Control and Neuroplasticity Research Group, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium. Marcus V.C. Baldo is with the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil. André M. Cravo is with the Center for Mathematics, Computation and Cognition, Federal University of ABC, Brazil. Johan Wagemans is with the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium. Werner F. Helsen is with the Department of Kinesiology, Movement Control and Neuroplasticity Research Group, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Leuven, Belgium.