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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
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 Programme Lead for the Psychology (Sport, Health and Exercise) BSc in the Department of Life 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. On this note: I am proud to be the Director of Research for The Bikeability Trust. My remit is to procure and generate evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of the excellent Bikeability cycle training programme - including a role for immersive cycle training to consolidate the considerable learning that occurs at all Levels of Bikeability training. In my role as Departmental Lead for Staff Experience & Wellbeing, my vision was 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, although I have spent a disproportionate amount of time writing my book, Motivation: The Manual (available on Amazon) over the past few years. I have also been rebuilding my left knee from the inside out, with a careful self-determined rehabilitation programme. For those who are interested: I realised (very late) that tight quadriceps and patellar tendons were compounding my cartilage problems, so took to regular self-massage using commercially available percussive and vibrating massagers - a game-changer. I have also found that running in crocs (with heel straps!) instead of (over-engineered) running shoes increases my knee stability, as does using barefoot shoes occasionally - although at a cost to the lumbar spine and fatty pads in the soles of my feet! But to cut a long and slightly sad story short: on 23rd September 2023, I ran a parkrun in 21 minutes, at the age of 48 - and the knees felt great!

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