Advancing theory and application of cognitive research in sport: Using representative tasks to explain and predict skilled anticipation, decision-making, and option-generation behavior☆

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Abstract

Objectives:

Three main goals were addressed in this research. First, we tested the claims of two cognitive mechanisms that have been proposed to explain expert performance. This was done during assessment and intervention phases of decision making. Second, we tested the validity of an online test of perceptual-cognitive skill in soccer: The Online Assessment of Strategic Skill In Soccer (OASSIS). Third, we compared the OASSIS to other predictors of skill in soccer.

Design:

Over the course of a three-part experiment, participants completed an updated version of the option-generation paradigm employed by Ward, Ericsson, and Williams (2013), the OASSIS, and a battery of other cognitive tests. Performance on these tests was used to inform theory and validate the OASSIS as an applied tool for domain professionals.

Methods:

NCAA Division 1 and recreational-level soccer players completed a battery of tests, both using paper/pencil (see Ward et al., 2013) and online.

Results:

Support for Long Term Working Memory theory (LTWM; see Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995) was observed during both phases of decision making, though the prescriptions of the Take-The-First heuristic (see Johnson & Raab, 2003) tend to hold, particularly within intervention phase. When used to predict skill-group membership, the OASSIS accounted for more variance than domain-general tests of cognition. Furthermore, scores on the OASSIS correlated with other measures of perceptual-cognitive skill in soccer and the process-level predictions made by LTWM.

Conclusions:

Updates to our theoretical understanding of expert performance are provided and the validity of the OASSIS is demonstrated.

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