We trained 308 observers on a complex dynamic visual scene task void of context and motor control requirements3 and demonstrate that professionals as a group dramatically differ from high-level amateur athletes, who dramatically differ from non-athlete university students in their capacity to learn such stimuli. This demonstrates that a distinguishing factor explaining the capacities of professional athletes is their ability to learn how to process complex dynamic visual scenes. This gives us an insight as to what is so special about the elite athletes' mental abilities, which allows them to express great prowess in action.
A total of 102 professional players (mean age = 23,8 ± 5,5 SD, median 22) from three different sports including 51 professional soccer players (English Premier League (EPL)), 21 professional ice hockey players (National Hockey League (NHL)) and 30 professional rugby players (French Top 14 Rugby League (Top14)). We also tested a total of 173 elite amateurs (mean age = 23,5 ± 5,8 SD, median 22) with 136 from the NCAA university sports program in the US and 37 from a European Olympic sport-training center. We have also tested 33 non-athlete university students (mean age = 23,8 ± 5,0 SD, median 22) from the Université de Montréal.
We have previously reported that, given identical conditions, top professional soccer, ice hockey or rugby teams generate very similar sensitivity profiles3. For this reason the professionals are presented as a single population group. Similarly, we obtained identical functions for our two amateur cohorts (NCAA and Olympic training center) studied here so again, we show the elite amateurs as one group.
Faubert, J. Professional athletes have extraordinary skills for rapidly learning complex and neutral dynamic visual scenes. Sci Rep 3, 1154 (2013).