Sportsmen were smarter at learning how to interpret the real world in action
Professional athletes learn quicker than university students to unravel complex visual data, according to a study that challenges the age-old brains-vs-brawn cliche.
Jocks are brainy too – in fact they are smarter in some dynamic contexts, concludes the paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
"They appear to be able to hyper-focus for short periods of time resulting in extraordinary learning functions," wrote study author Jocelyn Faubert from the University of Montreal School of Optometry.
For the study, Faubert put 102 professional sportsmen, 173 amateur athletes, and 33 non-sporty university students through a 3-D visual test. The subjects were about 23 years old on average.
The athletes included 51 English Premier League footballers, 21 National Hockey League ice hockey players and 30 French Top 14 rugby stars.
Great learning curve
Test participants had to track multiple moving objects on a screen with their eyes. They were not required to employ any motor skills.
The test was repeated 15 times over a minimum of five days.
The top athletes performed best, and had by far the steepest learning curve as the experiment progressed, wrote Faubert.
The amateurs started with similar results to the students in the first test, but then drew ahead in terms of learning speed.
"This demonstrates that a distinguishing factor explaining the capacities of professional athletes is their ability to learn how to process complex dynamic visual scenes," said the paper.AFP