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André Roca, Paul R. Ford, Allistair P. McRobert and A. Mark Williams

The ability to anticipate and to make decisions is crucial to skilled performance in many sports. We examined the role of and interaction between the different perceptual-cognitive skills underlying anticipation and decision making. Skilled and less skilled players interacted as defenders with life-size film sequences of 11 versus 11 soccer situations. Participants were presented with task conditions in which the ball was located in the offensive or defensive half of the pitch (far vs. near conditions). Participants’ eye movements and verbal reports of thinking were recorded across two experiments. Skilled players reported more accurate anticipation and decision making than less skilled players, with their superior performance being underpinned by differences in task-specific search behaviors and thought processes. The perceptual-cognitive skills underpinning superior anticipation and decision making were shown to differ in importance across the two task constraints. Findings have significant implications for those interested in capturing and enhancing perceptual-cognitive skill in sport and other domains.

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Peter Catteeuw, Bart Gilis, Arne Jaspers, Johan Wagemans and Werner Helsen

This study investigates the effect of two off-field training formats to improve offside decision making. One group trained with video simulations and another with computer animations. Feedback after every offside situation allowed assistant referees to compensate for the consequences of the flash-lag effect and to improve their decision-making accuracy. First, response accuracy improved and flag errors decreased for both training groups implying that training interventions with feedback taught assistant referees to better deal with the flash-lag effect. Second, the results demonstrated no effect of format, although assistant referees rated video simulations higher for fidelity than computer animations. This implies that a cognitive correction to a perceptual effect can be learned also when the format does not correspond closely with the original perceptual situation. Off-field offside decision-making training should be considered as part of training because it is a considerable help to gain more experience and to improve overall decision-making performance.

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Peter Catteeuw, Bart Gilis, Johan Wagemans and Werner Helsen

This two-experiment study aims to investigate the role of expertise in offside decision making (Experiment 1) and the effect of perceptual-cognitive training (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, a video-based offside decision-making task followed by a frame recognition task demonstrated a bias toward flag errors and a forward memory shift for less-successful elite-standard assistant referees that is in line with the predictions from the flash-lag effect. In Experiment 2, an offside decision-making training program demonstrated a substantial progress from pre- to posttest for response accuracy, but not for accuracy of memory in the frame recognition task. In both experiments, no differences were found for visual scan patterns. First, these results suggest that less-successful elite-standard assistant referees are more affected by the flash-lag effect. Second, an off-field perceptual-cognitive training program can help assistant referees to deal with the perceptual consequences of the flash-lag illusion and to readjust their decision-making process accordingly.

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Roel Vaeyens, Matthieu Lenoir, A. Mark Williams, Liesbeth Mazyn and Renaat M. Philippaerts

We examined differences in visual search behaviors and decision-making skill across different microstates of offensive play in soccer using youth participants (13.0-15.8 years) varying in skill and experience. We used realistic film simulations of offensive play, movement-based response measures, and an eye movement registration technique. Playing experience, skill level, and the unique constraints of the task, expressed by the number of players and relative proportion of offensive and defensive players, determined both the observed search behavior and processing requirements imposed on players in dynamic offensive team simulations. Significant differences in performance were observed between players and nonplayers and across three groups of soccer players who differed in skill level. Implications for talent identification and development are considered.

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Jean-Charles Lebeau, Sicong Liu, Camilo Sáenz-Moncaleano, Susana Sanduvete-Chaves, Salvador Chacón-Moscoso, Betsy Jane Becker and Gershon Tenenbaum

Research linking the “quiet eye” (QE) period to subsequent performance has not been systematically synthesized. In this paper we review the literature on the link between the two through nonintervention (Synthesis 1) and intervention (Synthesis 2) studies. In the first synthesis, 27 studies with 38 effect sizes resulted in a large mean effect (d = 1.04) reflecting differences between experts’ and novices’ QE periods, and a moderate effect size (d = 0.58) comparing QE periods for successful and unsuccessful performances within individuals. Studies reporting QE duration as a percentage of the total time revealed a larger mean effect size than studies reporting an absolute duration (in milliseconds). The second synthesis of 9 articles revealed very large effect sizes for both the quiet-eye period (d = 1.53) and performance (d = 0.84). QE also showed some ability to predict performance effects across studies.

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David Alder, Paul R. Ford, Joe Causer and A. Mark Williams

We examined the effects of high- versus low-anxiety conditions during video-based training of anticipation judgments using international-level badminton players facing serves and the transfer to high-anxiety and field-based conditions. Players were assigned to a high-anxiety training (HA), low-anxiety training (LA) or control group (CON) in a pretraining–posttest design. In the pre- and posttest, players anticipated serves from video and on court under high- and low-anxiety conditions. In the video-based high-anxiety pretest, anticipation response accuracy was lower and final fixations shorter when compared with the low-anxiety pretest. In the low-anxiety posttest, HA and LA demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments and longer final fixations compared with pretest and CON. In the high-anxiety posttest, HA maintained accuracy when compared with the low-anxiety posttest, whereas LA had lower accuracy. In the on-court posttest, the training groups demonstrated greater accuracy of judgments compared with the pretest and CON.

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Ryan J. Caserta, Jessica Young and Christopher M. Janelle

The purpose of the study was to determine whether multidimensional perceptual-cognitive skills training, including situational awareness, anticipation, and decision making, improves on-court performance in older adults when compared with a physical training program, including stroke and footwork development. Senior tennis players (N = 27) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: perceptual-cognitive skills training, technique-footwork training, or no training. Results indicated that participants receiving perceptual-cognitive skills training had significantly faster response speeds, higher percentage of accurate responses, and higher percentage of performance decision making in posttest match situations. Findings provide clear evidence that perceptual-cognitive skills can be trained in aged individuals. Implications and suggestions for future research are offered.

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Derek T.Y. Mann, A. Mark Williams, Paul Ward and Christopher M. Janelle

Research focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport is abundant. However, the existing qualitative syntheses of this research lack the quantitative detail necessary to determine the magnitude of differences between groups of varying levels of skills, thereby limiting the theoretical and practical contribution of this body of literature. We present a meta-analytic review focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport (N = 42 studies, 388 effect sizes) with the primary aim of quantifying expertise differences. Effects were calculated for a variety of dependent measures (i.e., response accuracy, response time, number of visual fixations, visual fixation duration, and quiet eye period) using point-biserial correlation. Results indicated that experts are better than nonexperts in picking up perceptual cues, as revealed by measures of response accuracy and response time. Systematic differences in visual search behaviors were also observed, with experts using fewer fixations of longer duration, including prolonged quiet eye periods, compared with nonexperts. Several factors (e.g., sport type, research paradigm employed, and stimulus presentation modality) significantly moderated the relationship between level of expertise and perceptual-cognitive skill. Practical and theoretical implications are presented and suggestions for empirical work are provided.

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Jocelyn Faubert and Lee Sidebottom

This present article discusses an approach to training high-level athletes’ perceptual-cognitive skills. The intention herein is to (a) introduce concepts in regard to what may be required by athletes to optimally process sports-related visual scenes at the perceptual-cognitive level; (b) present an experimental method of how it may be possible to train this capacity in athletes while discussing the necessary features for a successful perceptual-cognitive training outcome; and (c) propose that this capacity may be trainable even among the highest-level athletes. An important suggestion is that a simple difference between sitting and standing testing conditions may strongly influence speed thresholds with this task, which is analogous to game movement dynamics in sports, indicating shared resources between such high-level perceptual-cognitive demands and mechanisms involved in posture control. A discussion follows emphasizing how a perceptual-cognitive training approach may be useful as an integral component of athletic training. The article concludes with possible future directions.

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A. Mark Williams and Bradley Fawver

continued interest in identifying the perceptual–cognitive skills that differentiate experts from their less-expert counterparts across a variety of domains. Generally, over the last decade, much of the empirical work in perceptual–cognitive expertise has either corroborated previous research, often using