An investigation of human capability to predict the future location of objects in motion
Kelling, Nicholas J.
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Hitting a Major League fastball pitch may be the most difficult task in the sports realm. Anecdotal evidence suggests that certain individuals are able to perform this task reasonably well, perhaps because of superior sensitivity to changes in motion. However, the substantial lack of research investigating detection and assessment of changes in motion renders this conclusion problematic (Kelling, 2008). Two experiments, using expert and novice participants, assessed sensitivity to changes in motion. Experts for these studies were defined as current members of the Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jacket softball team. Experimental procedures included assessments of capabilities in batting and motion tracking tasks. Experiment One presented participants with recorded softball pitches thrown from a pitching machine. Experiment Two required participants to predict multiple landing locations for incomplete motion paths resulting from a single main target exploding into additional shrapnel pieces. Results suggest minimal expertise effects in the softball task with high performance by all participants, while distinct expertise effects exist in the shrapnel task. The motion tracking task resulted in fewer errors by experts, while all participants demonstrated a significantly large drop in performance with increasing number of shrapnel pieces. Findings from this work not only have application to the sport of softball, but are critical for identifying the people's capability to detect and assess changes in motion.