Perceptual-cognitive expertise in sport: a meta-analysis

J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2007 Aug;29(4):457-78. doi: 10.1123/jsep.29.4.457.


Research focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport is abundant. However, the existing qualitative syntheses of this research lack the quantitative detail necessary to determine the magnitude of differences between groups of varying levels of skills, thereby limiting the theoretical and practical contribution of this body of literature. We present a meta-analytic review focusing on perceptual-cognitive skill in sport (N = 42 studies, 388 effect sizes) with the primary aim of quantifying expertise differences. Effects were calculated for a variety of dependent measures (i.e., response accuracy, response time, number of visual fixations, visual fixation duration, and quiet eye period) using point-biserial correlation. Results indicated that experts are better than nonexperts in picking up perceptual cues, as revealed by measures of response accuracy and response time. Systematic differences in visual search behaviors were also observed, with experts using fewer fixations of longer duration, including prolonged quiet eye periods, compared with non-experts. Several factors (e.g., sport type, research paradigm employed, and stimulus presentation modality) significantly moderated the relationship between level of expertise and perceptual-cognitive skill. Practical and theoretical implications are presented and suggestions for empirical work are provided.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors