“Unlike other football players, goalkeepers have to make thousands of very rapid decisions based on limited or incomplete sensory information,” says Michael Quinn, first author of the study at Dublin City University, also a goalkeeper. retired professional and son of a former Irish international. Niall Quinn. “This led us to predict that goalkeepers would possess an increased ability to combine information from the different senses, and this hypothesis was confirmed by our results.”
“While many football players and fans around the world are familiar with the idea that goalkeepers are simply ‘different’ from the rest of us, this study may actually be the first time we have scientific evidence to support this claim,” says David. McGovern, lead researcher on the study, also from Dublin City University.
Test the hypothesis
Based on his own history as a professional goalkeeper, Quinn already had the feeling that goalkeepers experience the world in a different way. During his final year of psychology studies, he wanted to put this notion to the test.
To do this, the researchers recruited 60 volunteers, including professional goalkeepers, professional outfield players and controls of the same age who do not play football. They decided to look for differences between the three groups in so-called temporal binding windows, that is, the time window in which signals from the different senses are likely to be merged or integrated. perceptually.
In each trial, participants were presented with one or two images (visual stimuli) on a screen. These images can be presented with one, two or no beeps (auditory stimuli). These stimuli were presented with different time intervals.
In these tests, trials with one flash and two beeps generally led to a misperception of two flashes, proving that the auditory and visual stimuli were integrated. This misperception decreases as the time between stimuli increases, allowing researchers to measure the width of a person’s temporal binding window, with a narrower temporal binding window indicating more efficient multisensory processing.
Overall, their tests showed that the goalkeepers had marked differences in their multisensory processing ability. Specifically, goalkeepers had a narrower temporal binding window compared to outfielders and non-soccer players, indicating more accurate and faster estimation of the timing of audiovisual cues.
The test results also revealed another difference. Goalkeepers did not show as much interaction between visual and auditory information. This finding suggests that goalkeepers had a greater tendency to separate sensory signals. In other words, they incorporated the flashes and beeps to a lesser extent.
“We suggest that these differences arise from the idiosyncratic nature of the goalkeeping position that emphasizes goalkeepers’ ability to make rapid decisions, often based on partial or incomplete sensory information,” the researchers write.
They hypothesize that the tendency to separate sensory information arises from goalkeepers’ need to make quick decisions based on visual and auditory information coming in at different times. For example, goalkeepers monitor how a ball moves through the air and also use the sound of the ball being kicked. But the relationship between these signals over time will depend on where the outfielder making the shot is on the field. After repeated exposure to these scenarios, goalkeepers may begin to process sensory signals separately rather than combining them.
Future Research Directions
The researchers hope to explore other questions in future studies, including whether players in other highly specialized positions, such as forwards and central defenders, may also exhibit perceptual differences. They are also curious about which one comes first.
“Could the narrower temporal binding window observed in goalkeepers come from the rigorous training programs that goalkeepers engage in from a young age? » asks McGovern. “Or could it be that these differences in multisensory processing reflect an inherent, natural ability that attracts young players to the goalkeeping position? Further research into the developmental trajectory of aspiring goalkeepers will be necessary to distinguish these possibilities.
Reference: “Distinct multisensory processing profiles between professional goalkeepers and outfield soccer players” by Michael Quinn, Rebecca J. Hirst and David P. McGovern, October 9, 2023, Current biology.