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J Sports Sci. 1997 Dec;15(6):533-58.

Visual factors in hitting and catching.

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Department of Psychology, York University, North York, Ontario, Canada.


To hit or catch an approaching ball, it is necessary to move a bat or hand to the right place at the right time. The performance of top sports players is remarkable: positional errors of less than 5 cm and temporal errors of less than 2 or 3 ms are reliably maintained. There are three schools of thought about how this is achieved. One holds that predictive visual information about where the ball will be at some future instance (when) is used to achieve the hit or catch. The second holds that the bat or hand is moved to the correct position by exploiting some relation between visual information and the required movement. The third focuses on the use of prior knowledge to supplement inadequate visual information. For a rigid spherical ball travelling at constant speed along or close to the line of sight, the retinal images contain both binocular and monocular correlates of the ball's instantaneous direction of motion in depth. Also, the retinal images contain both binocular and monocular information about time of arrival. Humans can unconfound and use this visual information, but they are unable to estimate the absolute distance of the ball or its approach speed other than crudely. In cricket, this visual inadequacy allows a slow bowler to cause the batsman to misjudge where the ball will hit the ground. Such a bowler uses a three-pronged strategy: first, to deliver the ball in such a way as to prevent the batsman from obtaining the necessary visual information until it is too late to react; secondly, to force the batsman to rely entirely on inadequate retinal image information; thirdly, to allow the batsman to learn a particular relationship between the early part of the ball's flight and the point where the ball hits the ground, and then to change the relationship with such skill that the batsman does not detect the change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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