Visual search behaviors of association football referees during assessment of foul play situationsReport as inadecuate

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Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications

, 1:12

First Online: 31 October 2016Received: 26 March 2016Accepted: 23 August 2016


It is well reported that expert athletes have refined perceptual-cognitive skills and fixate on more informative areas during representative tasks. These perceptual-cognitive skills are also crucial to performance within the domain of sports officials. We examined the visual scan patterns of elite and sub-elite association football referees while assessing foul play situations. These foul play situations open play and corner kick situations were presented on a Tobii T120 Eye Tracking monitor. The elite referees made more accurate decisions and differences in their visual search behaviors were observed. For the open play situations, referees in the elite group spent significantly more time fixating the most informative area of the attacking player contact zone and less time fixating the body part that was not involved in the infringement non-contact zone. Furthermore, the average total fixation time in the contact zone and non-contact zone tended to differ between the elite and sub-elite referees in corner kick situations. In conclusion, elite level referees have learned to discern relevant from less-relevant information in the same way as expert athletes. Findings have implications for the development of perceptual training programs for sport officials.

KeywordsExpertise Sports officials Decision making Eye-tracking Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s41235-016-0013-8 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Jochim Spitz - Koen Put - Johan Wagemans - A. Mark Williams - Werner F. Helsen


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