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Sport Practice Enhances Athletes’ Observation Capacity: Comparing Scenic Change Detection in Open and Closed Sports


Grosprêtre, S. & Gabriel, D.



Perceptual and Motor Skills

Tipo de publicación

Artículo de revista



Palabras clave

change blindness, gymnastics, parkour, perception, rock climbing, skill


Domain-specific knowledge guides our attention and thus influences our perception. Prior change-blindness research has shown that expert athletes can spot meaningful scene changes more quickly than novices, but less is known of whether this expertise is modulated differentially between open and closed sporting activities. We presented 81 individuals (20 gymnasts, 19 rock climbers, 22 parkour practitioners, and 20 control participants) with alternating sequences of images that corresponded to the habitual training landscapes of each group (gymnasiums, rock cliffs, and urban environments, respectively). We included contextual and non-contextual scenic changes to evaluate whether athletes were generally aware of their environments, or whether their observation strategies only targeted sport-related environmental elements. Among these three athletic endeavors, we found that gymnasts were faster at detecting changes in their environment, irrespective of whether or not these changes were contextual to the sports involved. Expert rock climbers presented a domain-specific expertise that was improved even further for contextual changes. Parkour practitioners presented the fastest reaction times in the urban environment and some of the best reaction times for all types of changes. These results confirm that an ability to read the environment is an integral aspect of practice in open-skilled sports, while skills of athletes in closed-skilled sports are more closely related to motor skill repetitions in constant environments. Thus, open skill training may benefit athletes’ guidance of attention. Our finding that parkour practitioners appeared to have developed the widest perceptual abilities was probably linked to these athletes’ extremely wide range of practice environments and with the constant demands of this sport to find solutions in random natural environments that that are not purposely designed for the sport.


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