Gaze behaviors and decision making accuracy of higher- and lower-level ice hockey referees

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Background:Gaze behaviors are often studied in athletes, but infrequently for sport officials. There is a need to better understand gaze behavior in refereeing in order to improve training and education related to visual search patterns, which have been argued to be related to decision making (Abernethy & Russell, 1987a).Objective:To examine gaze behaviors, decision accuracy, and decision sensitivity (using signal detection analysis) of ice hockey referees of varying skill levels in a laboratory setting.Design:Using an experimental design, we conducted multiple t-tests.Method:Higher-level (N = 15) and lower-level ice hockey referees (N = 15) wore a head-mounted eye movement recorder and made penalty/no penalty decisions related to ice hockey video clips on a computer screen. We recorded gaze behaviors, decision accuracy, and decision sensitivity for each participant.Results:Results of the t-tests indicated no group differences in gaze behaviors; however, higher-level referees made significantly more accurate decisions (both accuracy and sensitivity) than lower-level referees.Conclusion:Higher-level ice hockey referees are superior to lower-level referees on decision making, but referees do not differ on gaze behaviors. Possibly, higher-level referees process relevant decision making information more effectively.

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