October 14, 2023


Soccer goalkeepers literally see and hear the world differently (Mo Costandi, 10/14/23, Big Think)

Michael Quinn of University College Dublin and his colleagues therefore hypothesized that goalkeepers would have an enhanced ability to integrate auditory and visual information compared to other players.

To test this, they performed an experiment to measure the so-called "temporal binding window" (the time period in which different sensory inputs are perceived as one event) in 20 professional goalkeepers, 20 outfield soccer players, and 20 age-matched control participants who do not play soccer. This involved showing the participants a series of flashes and beeps presented to them at varying intervals and asking them to report how many flashes they saw. Typically, one flash accompanied by two beeps creates the illusion of perceiving two flashes, as long as the flash and the beeps are presented close enough together (that is, within the temporal binding window).     

In a paper published in the journal Current Biology, Quinn and his colleagues report that this temporal binding window was narrower in the professional goalkeepers than in the outfield players and non-players. In other words, the flash and beeps had to be presented fractions of a second closer to each other in order for the goalkeepers to experience the illusion. They were not easily fooled.

The goalkeepers also exhibited a reduction in the extent to which auditory and visual information interact with each other compared to the other two groups of participants.

Whereas outfield players cover between 10-12 km during a 90-minute soccer match, goalkeepers cover about half that distance. And while outfield players make short sprints roughly every 90 seconds, and typically pass the ball to teammates over distances of up to 50 meters, goalkeepers usually perform just two short sprints, and make up to 14 long kicks into the opponent's half of the playing field per match. 

So although goalkeepers spend most of their match time standing on the goal line, these physically demanding high velocity actions likely contribute significantly to their overall match load, and even may elicit a unique physiological response to the demands placed on them during matchplay. The authors of this latest study suggest that the enhanced multi-sensory integration and reduced interactions between auditory and visual information they observed in goalkeepers likely occurs because of the special demands of the position. 

Posted by at October 14, 2023 11:22 AM