Advertisement
Gene Tools
Gene Tools

Athletes Are Champion Visual Learners

Pro athletes can learn to parse a complicated moving visual scene faster than most.

By | January 31, 2013

Credit: Rick DikemanElite athletes are not just stronger, faster or more agile than their peers; their visual learning skills are also a cut above.

Jocelyn Faubert from the University of Montreal found that professional football, ice hockey, and rugby players were significantly better than amateurs or non-athletes at processing a fast-moving, complicated scene. And as the three groups practiced, the pros widened their advantage even further.

“During a game, athletes are always confronted by situations where they have to keep track of teammates or opponents,” said Faubert. An exceptional ability to do this might be part of what separates the greats from their peers, he added.

“They aren’t just better because they’ve had more practice, although there’s that too,” said Andrew Wilson, a perceptual psychologist at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study. “They are also better because they learn faster. Like a lot of things in biological systems, the rich get richer.”

Faubert recruited 51 soccer players from the English Premier League, 21 ice hockey players from the National Hockey League, and 30 rugby players from the French Top 14 Rugby League, along with 173 elite amateurs from college-level sports and 33 non-athlete students. He then asked the participants to follow a set of spheres, moving in all directions on a computer screen, and track the paths of a few select shapes. This test, known as the 3D-MOT or NeuroTracker, adjusts its own difficulty to match the skill of the user, by speeding up or slowing down the spheres. The task demands that volunteers can divide their attention between many moving targets, ignore distractions, and keep watch over a large visual field—all qualities that professional athletes rely on.

Faubert’s results were stark. The professional athletes not only started at higher speeds than the amateurs and non-athletes, but they showed the greatest improvements as they practiced.  And the amateurs, in turn, did better than the non-athletes—but only after some practice. “They were not necessarily better at doing this sort of thing to begin with but are better at learning to do it,” said Wilson, who suspects this indicates that athletes are better at visual learning because of their extensive training, as opposed to some innate visual ability. “Experience makes you a better learner, and this I think is a nice demonstration.”

However, Wilson and Faubert both want to see long-term studies that measure the visual learning skills of athletes over time, as they become more experienced.  

Wilson also cautions that the 3D-MOT will not help agents to identify the next sports star. “There’s nothing here to say whether performance on this task predicts anything about future sporting achievement,” he said.

J. Faubert et al., “Professional athletes have extraordinary skills for rapidly learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes,” Scientific Reports, 3: 1-3, 2013.

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Comments

Avatar of: Ketich

Ketich

Posts: 1

January 31, 2013

The formula for winning football matches is simple: Score more goals than the opposition.And in the Premier League, the best league in the world, that is especially important.write research paper

 

Avatar of: aradea

aradea

Posts: 1

February 3, 2013

I think an athlete is a complete person,both intelligence and physical.

Terapi kista ovarium

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Eppendorf
Eppendorf
Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist
Life Technologies