Enter your details:
Thank you for subscribing.
Subscribe to our newsletter!

José Afonso1

1University of Porto, Faculty of Sports, Centre of Research, Education, Innovation and Intervention in Sport, Porto, Portugal

Theoretical Issues and Methodological Implications in Researching Visual Search Behaviours: A Preliminary Study Comparing the Cognitive and Ecologic Paradigms


A number of research papers have been devoted to understanding the mechanisms underpinning successful decision-making in sports, and analysis of eye movements has deserved special attention in this concern. A thorough reading of existing literature denotes that research on ocular fixations requires at least 100 milliseconds within the same location. For average eye-tracking systems, this means using at least three frames for each fixation. However, ecological psychology has claimed that as low as 16.67 milliseconds might suffice to capture relevant information, implying using merely one frame to consider that a fixation has been made. The goal of this experiment was to directly compare two systems (one frame-one fixation versus three frames-one fixation) for coding information concerning eye movements in a representative volleyball task in an in situ condition. Specifically, it was intended to analyse emerging differences and their meaning. Results exhibited statistically significant differences with regard to search rate (number of fixations, number of fixation locations, and mean fixation duration). Analysing fixation locations it was apparent that the ecological paradigm for considering visual fixations afforded supplementary information. Furthermore, the additional emerging cues appeared to be meaningful, and the level of noise introduced was very low. It is suggested that future research in eye movements considers using the one frame-one fixation approach, instead of the traditional three frames-one fixation set.


decision-making, visual search behaviours, methodology of investigation


1. DICKS M, BUTTON C, DAVIDS K, Examination of gaze behaviors under in situ and video simulation task constraints reveals differences in information pickup for perception and action. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72 (2010) 706. – 2. MANN D, COOMBES S, MOUSSEAU M, JANELLE C, Quiet eye and the Bereitschaftspotential: Visuomotor mechanisms of expert motor performance. Cognitive Processing, 12 (2011) 223. – 3. GRÉHAIGNE JF, GODBOUT P, BOUTHIER D, The teaching and learning of decision-making in team sports. Quest, 53 (2001) 59. – 4. MCPHERSON S, Tactical differences in problem representations and solutions in collegiate varsity and beginner female tennis players. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 70 (1999) 369. – 5. GIBSON JJ, The ecological approach to visual perception (Houghton Miffin, Boston, 1979). – 6. PASSOS P, ARAÚJO D, DAVIDS K, SHUTTLEWORTH R, Manipulating constraints to train decision making in Rugby Union. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 3 (2008) 125. – 7. PANCHUK D, VICKERS J, Gaze behaviors of goaltenders under spatial-temporal constraints. Human Movement Science, 25 (2006) 733. – 8. Hristovski R, Davids K, Araújo D, Information for regulating action in sport: metastability and emergence of tactical solutions under ecological constraints. In Araújo D, Ripoll H, Raab M (Eds) Perspectives on cognition and action in sport (Nova Science Publishers, New York, 2009). – 9. VICKERS J, Advances in coupling perception and action: The quiet eye as a bidirectional link between gaze, attention, and action. Progress in Brain Research, 174 (2009) 279. – 10. AFONSO J, GARGANTA J, MCROBERT A, WILLIAMS AM, MESQUITA I, The perceptual cognitive processes underpinning skilled performance in volleyball: Evidence from eye-movements and verbal reports of thinking involving an in situ representative task. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 11 (2012) 339. – 11. MCROBERT A, WARD P, ECCLES D, WILLIAMS AM, The effect of manipulating context-specific information on perceptual-cognitive processes during a simulated anticipation task. British Journal of Psychology, 102 (2011) 519. – 12. NORTH J, WILLIAMS AM, HODGES N, WARD P, ERICSSON KA, Perceiving patterns in dynamic action sequences: Investigating the processes underpinning stimulus recognition and anticipation skill. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23 (2009) 878. – 13. PIRAS A, LOBIETTI R, SQUATRITO S, A study of saccadic eye movement dynamics in volleyball: Comparison between athletes and non-athletes. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 50 (2010) 99. – 14. ROCA A, FORD P, MCROBERT A, WILLIAMS AM, Identifying the processes underpinning anticipation and decision-making in a dynamic time-constrained-task. Cognitive Processing, 12 (2011) 301. – 15. TABACHNICK BG, FIDELL LS, Using multivariate statistics (Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 2007).