Ivory Towers: Goal-mouth incidence

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The Independent Culture
GAMES people play have always provided a fruitful field for academic research, usually on the psychological aspects of participation, but sometimes producing results that can lead to performance enhancement without the use of stimulants.

Squash players should take note of a dissertation by M R Pruitt of Tennessee State University who, in 1984, studied the effects of 'selected colours on reaction time and racquetball wall volley performance'. He reached the conclusion that players' reaction times were best when using green or fluorescent orange balls. Fluorescent yellow also scored highly, though not significantly better than blue.

Might not England's performance on the football field be improved by a study of the paper Skill and Judgement of Footballers in Attempting to Score Goals (British Journal of Psychology, Vol 53, 1962, pp. 71-88) by J Cohen and E J Dearnaley? The researchers interviewed a wide range of footballers to discover that the nearer a player is to the goal when he shoots, the more likely he thinks he is to score. The evidence also supported the hypothesis that good players have more confidence.

Video games have been the subject of much recent study with at least one researcher concluding that their role is to permit adolescents to regress to childhood. M H Klein, in a paper entitled The bite of Pac-man (Journal of Psychohistory, Vol 11, 1984 pp. 395-401) explains the underlying motivations behind manoeuvring a blob through a maze, eating other blobs while being chased by yet more blobs. While satisfying primitive oral and sadistic appetites, it provides an outlet for fantasies involving a fear of engulfment.

How good you are at it may, however, depend less on your sado-oral aggressive tendencies than where you sit. R M Brown, N L Brown and K Reid of the Pacific Lutheran University reported their findings in a paper entitled Evidence for a player's position advantage in a videogame (Perceptual and motor skills vol 74, 1992, pp. 547-54). Their experiments with 40 right-handed male students and a table tennis video game showed that better performances were achieved when the players sat to the right of the screen. This was maintained even when they played a mirror image of the game.

The researchers expressed caution about jumping to any conclusions: 'The compatibility of certain display and response components of the game may have accounted for the advantage of the player's position.' Further research is clearly needed.