The relationship between visual attention and expertise in sports

Daniel Memmert, Daniel J. Simons, Thorsten Grimme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Given the prevalence of misperception and failed perception, particularly in attention-demanding team sports, surprisingly few studies have explored whether experts in team sports differ from other athletes and from non-athletes in their basic attention abilities. Method: In this study, we examined group differences between experts in team handball (n = 40), athletes from non-team sports (n = 40), and novice athletes (n = 40) using a battery of three attention tasks: a functional field of view task, a multiple-object tracking task, and an inattentional blindness task. Results: Performance on the three attention tasks was largely independent, with no significant correlations among the tasks. Team sports experts showed no better performance on the basic attention tasks than did athletes from non-teams sports or novice athletes. Conclusions: The finding that all basic attention tasks are largely independent provides preliminary support for the idea that attentional breadth, tracking performance, and inattentional blindness are distinct attentional processes. Our results demonstrate that sports expertise effects are unrelated to basic differences in attention-expertise does not appear to produce differences in basic attention and basic differences in attention do not appear to predict eventual expertise. Further experiments could focus on the ways in which more specific attentional strategies and processes contribute to sports performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Athletes
  • Functional field of view task
  • Inattentional blindness task
  • Multiple-object tracking task
  • Perception
  • Team ball sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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