The Role of Eye and Head Movements in Detecting Information About Fly Balls

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The authors attempted to identify perceptual mechanisms that pick up information for initiating a run to catch fly balls and for judging their landing locations. Fly balls have been shown to be tracked with the eyes and head (R. R. D. Oudejans, C. F. Michaels, F. C. Bakker, & K. Davids, 1999). This raised the question of whether constraining eye and head movements of experienced baseball players by having them wear eye-movement-preventing goggles (eye movements would lead to losing sight of the ball) or a head-movement-preventing neck brace, or both, would limit their capacity (a) to start running in the correct direction and (b) to make correct judgments about the balls' landing locations. Restrictions had minimal effects on response accuracy, but response latency was affected. The goggles increased latency of both running and judging. Moreover, the neck brace decreased judgment time, particularly for difficult balls, suggesting that head stability is important for making judgments. High performance levels suggested that the perceptual system was flexible; that is, different parts of the system can perform the same function. The implications of these findings for perceptual mechanisms are discussed.

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