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Anticipation in soccer

Expert performance in soccer is underpinned by effective and efficient decision making skills. When facing an opponent, soccer players must be able to efficiently anticipate their upcoming actions drawing upon a variety of information sources in order to do so. The main sources of information are kinematic information (e.g. opponents’ postural cues) and contextual information (e.g. prior information about the opponent’s action tendencies). However, little is known about how expert soccer players integrate and use these sources of information to anticipate an opponent’s action and also how factors such as anxiety and task complexity affect this ability.

In a series of experiments, we are examining how expert soccer players integrate contextual information with kinematic information during a 2-versus-2 soccer video-anticipation task. In the first study, we assess the impact of contextual information that reveals opponents’ action tendencies (i.e. likelihood of dribble 70% and pass 30%), and kinematic information, on experts’ and novices’ gaze patterns and anticipation skill. In Study 2, we examine the impact of anxiety on the processing of such contextual information and the subsequent impact on performance. In Study 3, we manipulate the information available to the players and measure how experts’ anticipatory judgments alter as a function of the uncertainty associated with contextual information and kinematic information. In Study 4 we use electroencephalography (EEG) and retrospective self-reports, to assess the cognitive load associated with experts’ processing of contextual information. Finally, in Study 5 we explore how the costs and rewards related to the potential outcomes of the to-be-anticipated action moderate experts’ reliance on contextual information and bias their anticipatory judgements.

Our research provides novel insight into how experts integrate contextual information and kinematic information over time to inform their anticipatory judgments under various performance conditions. This insight will add to the body of literature that aims to develop an overarching theoretical framework for anticipation. Moreover, the project provides valuable knowledge for practitioners interested in training and testing anticipatory performance in soccer.


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Daniel Bishop - I am a Researcher and Senior Lecturer in Sport & Exercise Psychology here at Brunel, a British Psychological Society (BPS) Chartered Psychologist registered to practise with the HCPC, an Associate Fellow of the BPS, and a Fellow of Advance HE (formerly the HEA). I am also the Director of Postgraduate Studies for the Division of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences. I have worked in both public and private sectors, including local authorities, the NHS, investment banks, the health & fitness industry and Further Education. These experiences have given me a sophisticated understanding of the challenges faced in this diverse range of industries, which is why I continue to add value to the performance of various individuals and organisations - using established psychological principles to do so. In my role as Departmental Lead for Staff Experience & Wellbeing, my vision is for Brunel to deservedly attain national recognition (e.g., the RSPH Health & Wellbeing Awards) for its long-term prioritisation of staff wellbeing and health. When I’m not working, I love to spend as much time as possible with my family and friends; and I am writing a book in the little I have left each week! I have also spent the past few years rebuilding my left knee from the inside out, with a careful self-determined rehabilitation programme. For those who are interested: at the time of typing, I can now tolerate regular running at a pretty good pace. I have realised that tight quadriceps and patellar tendons were compounding my cartilage problems, so have taken to regular self-massage using commercially available percussive and vibrating massagers - a game-changer. Static and eccentric patellar tendon loading has also helped, as has reverse cross-trainer exercise for as little as 12 mins, alternating 1 min reverse and 1 min forward. I have also found that running in crocs (with heel straps!) instead of (over-engineered) running shoes increases my knee stability.

Related Research Group(s)

brain scan

Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience - Fundamental and applied research into brain function using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), eye-tracking, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), infrared thermography together with psychophysics and cognitive behavioural paradigms in health and disease.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 19/10/2021