This tip is particularly helpful when your sport requires you to reach some kind of target- be it a basket, a hole or a goal. Research shows that if you perceive this target as bigger than it actually is, scoring becomes a piece of cake.
In March 2012, a team of research psychologists published a study suggesting that perception affects an athlete’s performance in the field. They set up an experiment in which 36 college students were asked to putt into a golf hole up a ramp. Using a projector to shine a ring of circles around the hole, the researchers were able to create an optical illusion that made it either look bigger or smaller.
The surprising results: students who perceived the hole as bigger were ten percent more likely to score. It might not guarantee that you’ll win a match, but it can give you a certain advantage over your opponent, said lead author Jessica Witt.
And it wasn’t the first study to support the power of perception while playing sports. In 2010, Witt put a group of tennis players in a court and had them return balls from a feeder machine. After every stroke, the players were asked to estimate how long it had taken the ball to reach their rackets. When Witt compared the results, she found that the players who had hit the ball out-bounds perceived the ball as moving faster, than the ones who had hit it in-bounds. ”We know that how people perceive the environment affects their ability to act in it, such as scoring a basket or hitting a baseball,” explained Witt, “and now we know that seeing a target as larger leads to improved performance.”
Although perception can influence your performance on a psychological level, another interesting study from 2004 shows that your body cannot be fooled, . In that study, when treadmill runners were told that they were jogging at an easier pace than they actually were, their perception of the experience stayed the same. Afterwards, they reported being just as tired as the runners that had not been manipulated. The mind might be prone to a little manipulation, but the lungs and heart clearly aren’t.
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Read (open access) study
Jessica K Witt, Mila Sugovic (2010). Performance and ease influence perceived speed Perception DOI: 10.1068/p6699