Pravinath Ramachandran 1, Matt Watts 2, Robin C. Jackson 3, Spencer J. Hayes 4, and Joe Causer 1
1Liverpool John Moores University, UK,
2Coventry University, UK,
3Loughborough University, UK,
4University College London, UK
Cognitive psychologists have consistently shown that switching between consecutive tasks can result in the misallocation of attention and poorer performance. Cricket umpires are required to determine the legality of each delivery by considering the landing position of the bowler’s front foot in relation to the crease, before reallocating their attention to events related to the ball and batter. The aim of this study was to examine whether this attentional switch would modulate performance when adjudicating leg-before-wicket (LBW) decisions. Fifteen expert cricket umpires wore an eye tracker as they performed a series of LBW decision tasks in two conditions (task-switching, control), with and without the requirement to adjudicate the front foot no ball. Dependent variables were as follows: radial error (cm), final fixation duration (ms), pre-impact duration (ms), post-impact dwell time (ms), number of fixations, average fixation duration (ms) and final fixation location (%). Overall radial error was not significantly different between the task-switching and control conditions; however, radial error was higher on the initial pitch judgment in the task-switching, compared to control condition. In successful trials, umpires employed a longer final fixation duration and post-impact dwell time on the stumps. Task-switching led to shorter final fixation and pre-impact durations as well as an increased number of final fixations to less-relevant locations. These data suggest that expert umpires use adaptive gaze strategies to maintain decision accuracy despite increases in processing demands and the constraints of reallocating attention. These data have implications for understanding expert perceptual-cognitive skill in complex decision-making tasks and may have implications for the development of training protocols for sub-elite umpires.