The length of the final fixation prior to executing a motor skill has been coined Quiet Eye. For instance, when shooting a basketball, people will typically look at the ring at the moment of shooting. The length of this fixation is the Quiet Eye duration.
When performing precision tasks, such as basketball shooting or golf putting, the Quiet Eye duration consistently differentiates between skilled and less skilled performers, and between successful and unsuccessful performances. The phenomenon has proven to be very robust.
However, this research has typically examined motor skills in situations that involve stable and well controlled environments. Andre Klostermann and colleagues attempted to replicate the Quiet Eye phenomenon in small sided games, whereby the environment is constantly changing due to the presence of defenders.
10 intermediately skilled basketball players were compared against 7 highly skilled basketball players.
All participants performed jump shots in a defended and an undefended condition. In the undefended condition, participants performed jump shots from the free throw line. In the defended condition, participants played 3 v 3 small sided games, with the only rule being that the attackers needed to shoot jump shots from one of three positions (with one position being the free throw line).
Participants performed both conditions until they had achieved 6 successful and 6 unsuccessful shots from the free throw line.
Participants wore an eye-tracker during both conditions. This allowed for the assessment of the duration of the final fixation (Quiet Eye duration), as well as when the final fixation started (Quiet Eye onset) and ended (Quiet Eye offset). This was assessed relative to when participants extended their arm for taking the shot.
There were 3 key results:
- Quiet Eye duration was longer for successful than unsuccessful shots. This was found regardless of participant skill level. However this was only apparent in the defended condition (i.e., the small sided game).
- Successful shots were also characterised by an earlier onset of Quiet Eye and a later finish to Quiet Eye (i.e., participants looked at the ring earlier and for longer).
- Quiet Eye duration did not differ between the highly skilled players and intermediately skilled players. This finding differs with previous studies.
The coupling of a longer final fixation to the basketball ring whilst shooting the ball appears to be a characteristic of successful shooting when task demands increase (i.e., when defenders were present).
The fact that Quiet Eye duration differentiated successful from unsuccessful shots in small sided games demonstrates the strength of the effect.