Perception in Volleyball: The Effects of Competitive Stress

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Volleyball players and nonplayers were compared for speed and accuracy of performance in a task involving detection of the presence of a volleyball in rapidly presented slides of a volleyball situation. Slides depicted both game and nongame situations, and subjects performed the task in both noncompetitive and competitive conditions. For all subjects, game information was perceived more quickly and accurately than nongame information. In competition all subjects showed decreased perceptual accuracy and no change in criterion, supporting the Easterbrook (1959) notion of perceptual narrowing with stress. Very large accompanying increases in response speed, however, suggested that competition may induce adoption of a particular speed-accuracy trade-off. Cognitive flexibility in the adoption of particular speed-accuracy trade-offs is discussed with reference to volleyball.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the National Research Council of Canada and the Department of Health and Welfare Canada, Fitness and Amateur Sport Branch. The University of Waterloo Volleyball Athenas and Pat Davis deserve special thanks for their cooperation and interest throughout the study.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Janet Starkes, School of Physical Education & Athletics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4K1.

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