The effect of blurred perceptual training on the decision making of skilled football referees

Tammie van Biemen, J. Koedijker, Peter G. Renden, David L. Mann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


When judging ambiguous foul situations in football (soccer), referees must attune to the kinematic characteristics inherent in genuine fouls to ensure that they can (i) recognize when a foul has taken place, and (ii) discriminate the presence of deceptive intent on the part of the tackled player. The aim of this study was to determine whether perceptual training that removes superficial visual information would improve the decision-making performance of football referees. Two groups of skilled referees judged ambiguous foul situations on video before and after a training intervention that involved adjudicating foul situations. During the training phase, participants in a blurred-footage training group watched digitally altered, blurred videos that removed superficial visual information, whilst participants in a normal-footage control group viewed the same videos without blur (i.e., with the superficial information present). We hypothesized that blurred-training would train referees to ignore superficial visual information and instead focus on the basic kinematic movements that would better reveal the true nature of the inter-personal interaction. Consistent with this idea, training with blurred footage resulted in a positive change in response accuracy from pre to post-test when compared with normal-footage training. This improvement could not be explained on the basis of changes in response time or bias, but instead reflected a change in the sensitivity to genuine fouls. These findings provide a promising indication of the potential efficacy of blurred-footage training for referees to attune to the kinematic information that characterizes a foul. Blurred training might offer an innovative means of enhancing the decision-making performance of football referees via perceptual training.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1803
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberSEPTEMBER
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2018


  • Blur
  • Decision making
  • Football
  • Perceptual training
  • Referee


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