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Greg Wood, Samuel J. Vine, Johnny Parr and Mark R. Wilson

In three experiments, we explored the use of deceptive gaze in soccer penalty takers using eye-tracking equipment. In Experiment 1, players competed against a goalkeeper while taking unconstrained shots. Results indicated that when players used deception (looking to the opposite side to which they shot), they extended the duration of their final aiming (quiet eye) fixation and maintained shooting accuracy. In Experiment 2, with no goalkeeper present, players still used extended quiet-eye durations when using a deceptive strategy, but this time, their accuracy suffered. In Experiment 3, we manipulated the goalkeeper’s location while controlling for the use of peripheral vision and memory of goal size. Results indicated that increased quiet-eye durations were required when using deceptive aiming, and that accuracy was influenced by the position of the goalkeeper. We conclude that during deceptive aiming, soccer players maintain accuracy by covertly processing information related to the goalkeeper’s location.

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Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine and Greg Wood

The aim of this study was to test the predictions of attentional control theory using the quiet eye period as an objective measure of attentional control. Ten basketball players took free throws in two counterbalanced experimental conditions designed to manipulate the anxiety they experienced. Point of gaze was measured using an ASL Mobile Eye tracker and fixations including the quiet eye were determined using frame-by-frame analysis. The manipulation of anxiety resulted in significant reductions in the duration of the quiet eye period and free throw success rate, thus supporting the predictions of attentional control theory. Anxiety impaired goal-directed attentional control (quiet eye period) at the expense of stimulus-driven control (more fixations of shorter duration to various targets). The findings suggest that attentional control theory may be a useful theoretical framework for examining the relationship between anxiety and performance in visuomotor sport skills.

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Mark R. Wilson, Greg Wood and Samuel J. Vine

The current study sought to test the predictions of attentional control theory (ACT) in a sporting environment. Fourteen experienced footballers took penalty kicks under low- and high-threat counterbalanced conditions while wearing a gaze registration system. Fixations to target locations (goalkeeper and goal area) were determined using frame-by-frame analysis. When anxious, footballers made faster first fixations and fixated for significantly longer toward the goalkeeper. This disruption in gaze behavior brought about significant reductions in shooting accuracy, with shots becoming significantly centralized and within the goalkeeper’s reach. These findings support the predictions of ACT, as anxious participants were more likely to focus on the “threatening” goalkeeper, owing to an increased influence of the stimulus-driven attentional control system.