Expert performance in sport: A cognitive perspective

MSL research field: 
TitleExpert performance in sport: A cognitive perspective
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsHodges, N, Starkes, J, McMahon, C
Book TitleThe Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance

The goal of this chapter is to present what is currently known about expert performance in sport. Research on expert performance in sport is a relatively recent area of inquiry covering only the last 30 years. Our view of its evolution is that there have been 3 overlapping phases in its development. During the 1970’s and 1980’s much of  sport research employed recipient paradigms popular within experimental and cognitive psychology. Typical research of this time involved testing skilled and less-skilled or novice groups of athletes on sport specific tests of recall and recognition, temporal and spatial occlusion of visual information, and anticipation. Again, following general trends in psychology verbal protocal analyses of expert athletes were also published. Toward the end of the 1980’s, developments in the recording and analyses of eye movements and kinematic data made it feasible to examine the eye movements of expert performers in contrast with less skilled individuals to determine what athletes focused on and how their eye movement patterns differed from less skilled athletes (for reviews see Starkes, Helsen & Jack, 2000; Williams & Hodges, 2004). The focus until the 1990’s was largely perceptual-cognitive and aimed at establishing where differences existed between experts and novices within a particular sport domain. One of the issues that plagued much of this early research was establishing who was an “expert” and what was an acceptable metric of expert performance.

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