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Perceptual-cognitive processes underlying creative expert performance in soccer

Abstract

Creativity is one of the key parts of expert performance in sport and other domains. The aim of this study was to determine the underlying perceptual and cognitive processes that underpin creative expert performance in the sport of soccer. Forty skilled adult soccer players participated. In the experimental task, they interacted with representative video-based 11 vs. 11 attacking situations whilst in possession of a ball. Clips were occluded at a key moment and participants were required to play the ball in response to each presented scenario as they would in a real-game situation. Moreover, they were required to name other additional actions they could execute for each situation. Their solutions on the task were measured using the three observation criteria for creativity of originality, flexibility, and fluency of decisions. Using these criteria, players were categorized into either high- or low-creative groups. Visual search and cognitive thought processes were recorded during the task using a portable eye-movement registration system and retrospective verbal reports. The creativity-based between-group differences in decision making were underpinned by differences in visual search strategy. Compared to the low-creative group, the high-creative players made more fixations of shorter duration in a different sequential order and to more task-relevant locations of the display, indicating a broader attentional focus. They also generated a greater number of verbal reports of thoughts related to the assessment of the current task situation and planning of future decisions when compared with the low-creative players. Our findings highlight the perceptual-cognitive processes that underlie creative expert performance in a sport-specific domain.

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Contributions

AR came up with the main idea for the project. AR, PRF, and DM implemented the idea into a feasible design. AR conducted the investigation, data collection, and formal analysis. AR wrote the original draft of the manuscript. AR, PRF, and DM revised the manuscript together. All authors gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to André Roca.

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All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Roca, A., Ford, P.R. & Memmert, D. Perceptual-cognitive processes underlying creative expert performance in soccer. Psychological Research 85, 1146–1155 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01320-5

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