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Mila Sugovic, Jessica Witt; Performance Affects Perception of Ball Speed in Tennis. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1033. doi: 10.1167/10.7.1033.
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Several studies suggest that action abilities affect spatial perception. For example, a softball appears to be larger when athletes are hitting better (Witt & Proffitt, 2005), and a putting hole appears larger when golfers are playing better (Witt, Linkenauger, Bakdash, & Proffitt, 2008). In the present research, we demonstrate that action abilities in sports, specifically in tennis, affects both spatial perception and perception of ball speed. Students taking tennis lessons estimated the duration of ball travel from a ball machine to the point when it made contact with their racquet by performing an interval reproduction task following each ball return. After successful returns, players estimated the duration of the ball travel to be longer, suggesting that they perceived the ball to travel slower, compared with when they unsuccessfully returned the ball. Our results suggest that there is a bidirectional relationship between performance and perception and that perception of ball speed is scaled in relation to one's performance. This finding is consistent with athletic experiences. For example, in describing her game, a former world number one tennis player, Martina Navratilova said, “when I'm in the zone the ball simply appears to move slower, everything slows down.”
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