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Referee Vision

November 2, 2016

A referee’s success depends on knowing what to focus on, and what to ignore.



Sharp-eyed refs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In sports, when there’s a close play or a foul, most fans have their eyes glued on the athletes. But behavioral scientist Jochim Spitz and his colleagues at the University of Leuven in Belgium focus on the referees. In the journal Cognitive Research, they report that refs at the highest levels of soccer are nearly fifty percent more accurate at calling fouls as refs at lower levels. To learn why, they used eye tracking software on refs viewing game video.

JOCHIM SPITZ (University of Leuven):

Actually, they focus on the body parts of the players which are involved in the contact.


Less experienced refs focused on less critical elements. The research is part of a larger body of work on how humans make split-second decisions – research of interest not only in sports, but also in driving, policing, and many other activities. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


Story by Bob Hirshon