Missed kicks make brain see smaller goal post

Researchers from Purdue University recently discovered that visual perceptions change depending on how well people perform a goal-oriented task:

Flubbing a field goal kick doesn’t just bruise your ego — new research shows it may actually change how your brain sees the goal posts.

In a study of 23 non-football athletes who each kicked 10 field goals, researchers found that players’ performance directly affected their perception of the size of the goal: After a series of missed kicks, athletes perceived the post to be taller and more narrow than before, while successful kicks made the post appear larger-than-life.

Professional athletes have long claimed that their perception changes when they’re playing well — they start hitting baseballs as large as grapefruits, or aiming at golf holes the size of a bucket — but many scientists have been slow to accept that performance can alter visual perception.

“The reason why this is so radical is that perception has always been conceived as being all about information received by the eye,” said psychology researcher Jessica Witt of Purdue University, who co-authored the paper published last month in Perception. “In my studies we keep all the optical information constant, so the eye is seeing the exact same info — but it looks different depending on performance.”…

Interestingly, the change in players’ perception didn’t just depend on how many goals they missed — it also mattered how they missed their goals. Folks who failed because they didn’t kick high enough perceived the crossbar to be taller, while those who kicked to the side viewed it as more narrow.

Read the entire article here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/10/goal-perception/

I find it fascinating and logical that the brain changes perceptions in ways likely to improve performance. Someone who sees the crossbar as taller will tend to kick the ball higher.

I suspect the brain uses other submodality changes to make the goal posts appear important and distinct from the background, and to emphasize cues that tell the player the distance to the goal.

As NLPers, how can we use these types of perception changes to increase performance and help people learn faster?



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