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A Bayesian computational model to investigate expert anticipation of a seemingly unpredictable ball bounce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

David Harris, Jamie Stephen North, Oliver Runswick

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Research
Early online date24 May 2022
Accepted/In press5 May 2022
E-pub ahead of print24 May 2022
Published24 May 2022

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© 2022. The Author(s).


King's Authors


During dynamic and time-constrained sporting tasks performers rely on both online perceptual information and prior contextual knowledge to make effective anticipatory judgments. It has been suggested that performers may integrate these sources of information in an approximately Bayesian fashion, by weighting available information sources according to their expected precision. In the present work, we extended Bayesian brain approaches to anticipation by using formal computational models to estimate how performers weighted different information sources when anticipating the bounce direction of a rugby ball. Both recreational (novice) and professional (expert) rugby players (n = 58) were asked to predict the bounce height of an oncoming rugby ball in a temporal occlusion paradigm. A computational model, based on a partially observable Markov decision process, was fitted to observed responses to estimate participants' weighting of online sensory cues and prior beliefs about ball bounce height. The results showed that experts were more sensitive to online sensory information, but that neither experts nor novices relied heavily on prior beliefs about ball trajectories in this task. Experts, but not novices, were observed to down-weight priors in their anticipatory decisions as later and more precise visual cues emerged, as predicted by Bayesian and active inference accounts of perception.

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