Action Perception in Athletes: Expertise Facilitates Perceptual Discrimination

Roisin Elaine Harrison* (Corresponding Author), Martin Giesel, Constanze Hesse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research has demonstrated that athletes outperform non-athletes on action perception tasks involving anticipation of sport-related actions. We conducted two experiments to determine whether this advantage persists on tasks without anticipation and/or transfers to nonsport actions. In Experiment 1, motor experts (sprinters) and non-experts were shown two consecutive videos of an athlete either walking or sprinting. The participants’ task was to indicate whether the videos were identical or different. The sprinters were more accurate in
these judgments than non-experts, indicating that their athleticism was associated with motor expertise that enhanced their perception of both expert and everyday actions. Further analysis revealed that participants who reported basing their decisions on a specific and informative cue (i.e., the distance between where the athlete’s foot landed and a line on the track) outperformed
those who did not. However, the sprinters benefitted more from using this cue than the nonsprinters. In Experiment 2, we assessed whether non-experts’ performance improved if the number of available cues was reduced to make the informative cue easier to identify. Nonexperts completed the same task as in Experiment 1, with half of the participants viewing the upper part of the athletes’ body and the other half viewing the lower part containing the informative cue. However, the non-experts still did not reliably identify the cue, and performance did not vary between the two non-expert sub-groups. The results of these
experiments suggest that motor expertise indirectly affects action perception by improving experts’ ability to identify and use informative cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1472-1494
Number of pages23
JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Issue number4
Early online date5 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the Sage Agreement


  • sport
  • transfer
  • motor expertise
  • perceptual resonance
  • cue
  • sprint
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Visual Perception
  • Athletes
  • Judgment
  • Sports


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