The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Golfers' putting improves if they think the hole is larger.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflApr 10, 2012 11:00 PM

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Get Me Out of This Slump! Visual Illusions Improve Sports Performance "Misperceiving a target as bigger could influence [sports] performance in one of three ways. It could disrupt performance because the observer might aim for a location that does not correspond with the target. In this case, the misperception would result in worse performance. However, actions and explicit perceptions may not be influenced by illusions to the same degree... In this case, misperceiving a target as bigger would not affect performance. A final alternative is that misperceiving a target as bigger could enhance performance. Bigger targets feel as if they should be easier to hit, so people may feel more confident when aiming for a bigger target. Given that increased confidence improves performance, a perceptually bigger target may also lead to enhanced performance. Here, we report an experiment in which we tested these possibilities... Thirty-six participants (19 females, 17 males) putted to two different-sized holes (5.08 cm and 10.16 cm in diameter; both 10 cm in depth). A downward-facing projector displayed a ring of 11 small (3.8 cm in diameter) or 5 large (28 cm) circles around each hole to create an Ebbinghaus illusion. For each hole and illusion combination, participants stood at a computer approximately 1.7 m from the hole and used MS Paint to draw a circle that matched the hole’s size. Then, they attempted 10 putts from a distance of 3.5 m, and we recorded how many balls dropped into the hole...Participants made more successful putts when the 5-cm hole was perceptually larger. The surrounding circles did not influence perceived size of the 10-cm hole... Participants putted more successfully to the perceptually bigger hole. As outlined in the introduction, this result suggests a link between perceived size and performance. A likely explanation for this effect is that an increase in the apparent size of the target increased participants’ confidence in their abilities, which in turn improved performance."

Photo: flickr/Barkaw

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