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Joan López-Moliner, Eli Brenner; Flexible timing of eye movements when catching a ball. Journal of Vision 2016;16(5):13. doi: 10.1167/16.5.13.
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In ball games, one cannot direct ones gaze at the ball all the time because one must also judge other aspects of the game, such as other players' positions. We wanted to know whether there are times at which obtaining information about the ball is particularly beneficial for catching it. We recently found that people could catch successfully if they saw any part of the ball's flight except the very end, when sensory-motor delays make it impossible to use new information. Nevertheless, there may be a preferred time to see the ball. We examined when six catchers would choose to look at the ball if they had to both catch the ball and find out what to do with it while the ball was approaching. A catcher and a thrower continuously threw a ball back and forth. We recorded their hand movements, the catcher's eye movements, and the ball's path. While the ball was approaching the catcher, information was provided on a screen about how the catcher should throw the ball back to the thrower (its peak height). This information disappeared just before the catcher caught the ball. Initially there was a slight tendency to look at the ball before looking at the screen but, later, most catchers tended to look at the screen before looking at the ball. Rather than being particularly eager to see the ball at a certain time, people appear to adjust their eye movements to the combined requirements of the task.
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