1987 volume 16(1) pages 49 – 59

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McLeod P, 1987, "Visual reaction time and high-speed ball games" Perception 16(1) 49 – 59

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Visual reaction time and high-speed ball games

Peter McLeod

Received 9 October 1986, in revised form 9 April 1987

Abstract. Laboratory measures of visual reaction time suggest that some aspects of high-speed ball games such as cricket are 'impossible' because there is insufficient time for the player to respond to unpredictable movements of the ball. Given the success with which some people perform these supposedly impossible acts, it has been assumed by some commentators that laboratory measures of reaction time are not applicable to skilled performers. An analysis of high-speed film of international cricketers batting on a specially prepared pitch which produced unpredictable movement of the ball is reported, and it is shown that, when batting, highly skilled professional cricketers show reaction times of around 200 ms, times similar to those found in traditional laboratory studies. Furthermore, professional cricketers take roughly as long as casual players to pick up ball flight information from film of bowlers. These two sets of results suggest that the dramatic contrast between the ability of skilled and unskilled sportsmen to act on the basis of visual information does not lie in differences in the speed of operation of the perceptual system. It lies in the organisation of the motor system that uses the output of the perceptual system.

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