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Footballers'' field success changes their perception of goal post

Washington, Oct 7 : Footballers who successfully kick a goal perceive the goal post to be farther apart and the crossbar lower to the ground, while those who fail perceive their target to be much smaller, according to Purdue University research.

Golfers, baseball players and other athletes often report their targets look bigger on days they play well and smaller on bad days.

The study confirms that performance influences perception.

"People trying to kick field goals will see a much smaller goal after unsuccessful attempts. But those who kicked better judged the goal posts to be farther apart and the crossbar lower to the ground," said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes.

Interestingly, perception relates to specific areas of success and failure.

Witt said that study participants who missed because they kicked the ball too wide judged the goal to be narrower, and those who missed because they kicked the ball too short judged the goal to be taller.

The findings are based on the kicking performance of 23 non-football athletes who kicked from the centre of the field at the 10-yard line.

"When you watch football, kicking that extra point after a touchdown looks so easy, and that kick is almost never missed. And when it is missed, then fans are in an uproar. But it''s actually really hard to hit that target. Because of this disconnect, we thought this sport would give us the biggest effect to show how performance influences perception," said Witt.

In a previous study, Witt asked golfers after a round of golf to report their scores and estimate the size of a golf hole. She found that those who played better saw the hole as bigger.

In the current football study, she asked the kickers to estimate the size of the goal posts before and after kicking.

While there was no correlation between performance and how the goals posts were viewed before kicking, perceived size of the goal posts after kicking was positively correlated with kicking performance.

Witt said that the finding is an example of how action, in this case kicking a football, can bias perception.

"Most people think of perception as just being about information received by the eye. If that were the case, then perceived size should not have changed because the optical information specifying the size of the goals posts is constant. This research shows that perception is about more than just the optical system," said Witt.

The study is available online in the journal Perception. (ANI)


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