How the Information Processing Model varies between team, racquet and individual sports

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The above diagram illustrates that we get our information through the senses (mentioned above). This information is then stored in the Short-term sensory store before it is decided if the information is relevant (affects the immediate situation) or not. The relevant information is stored in the short term memory, which can hold 7 – 10 pieces of information. The decision process involves comparing the current situation (stored in the short-term memory) and any past instances which mimic the current situation (stored in the long term memory). Then the motor output occurs as a physical action. The performance is stored in the long-term memory, the model repeats.

I aim to investigate the importance of each stage in team, racket and individual sports while analyzing which stage has more effect in which type of activity.

The effectiveness of the model is affected by the intensity of the input. Input can come in various forms:

i) Audition – in team games such as basketball large crowds gather to spectate. They are allowed to sit very close to the performers and are loud. This increases the volume of the environment and it becomes harder for the elite basketball player to hear the call of his team-mates as the useful stimuli get drowned out by the overall noise. In racket sports such as tennis, the crowd is seated further out from the performance and must maintain silence during points so allowing the elite tennis player to hear the relevant stimuli better. The performance of the elite shot putter does not depend much on the auditory stimuli, as he will perform the same action which he practiced numerous times. The action has been over-learned and has become autonomous to the performer; there is no starting signal, therefore the only auditory stimuli present will be discarded as it’s irrelevant.

ii) Vision – in team games such as basketball the crowd gathers close to the court and could distract the performer. The spectators wear replica shirts to show support and could confuse the performer by weakening the stimuli. Racket games have the spectators further away form the performers and replica kits are not of high hindrance.

In individual sports such as shot putt visual stimuli are not of great consequence to the performance; however in an individual sport such as swimming, the competitor will receive visual stimuli from the position of his rivals in the race.

iii) Proprioception – in team sports such as rugby or football the playing surface could be uneven and the pitch conditions could vary from day to day. This will affect the efficiency of the tactile sense of the hands and feet of the performers, thus decreasing the intensity of the stimuli and making the IP Model less efficient. In racket sports the playing surface is always constant and would not vary in condition. Racket games use the tactile sense of the hands to determine the position of the racket. Individual sports again, do not rely on the tactile sense. The only possibility is to argue that a swimmer’s equilibrium could be affected by a swimmer in front who was creating waves, but this is minimal.

The short term sensory store is a temporary store for all the information that enters through the senses. It does not differ between the types of sport.

“In order to make a correct decision we must attend to the relevant information and not be distracted by the irrelevant information” (Galligan et all, 2000)

In the perception stage, the information form the short term sensory store is sorted into relevant and irrelevant. It is obvious that team games, having more stimuli, will require more time to be sorted. Therefore the IP Model will be slowed down, and as a consequence, there is a higher probability of a wrong decision being made. With the presence of much irrelevant information the relevant information gets drowned out (weakened) and is harder to detect; slowing down the IP Model by retarding the perception stage. Furthermore the slow decision making will hinder the time available to perform the skill and thus decrease the chances of success.

The short term memory (working memory) stores the relevant information that was selected in the perception stage. The channel capacity of the short-term memory is approximately 7 – 10 pieces of information which remain for roughly a minute. The stage of learning of the performer plays a crucial role in this stage of the IP Model. An expert as apposed to a novice will be able to store more information by “chunking” similar information into one piece.

Team games may have more than 10 pieces of relevant information and therefore the performer would have to discard relevant information which could hinder performance by the performer not having the best information available to him as he would have had discarded some of it. Again expert sportspeople would have the advantage in team games more than in other types as they will know which information is most relevant and will be able to prioritise the information better than a novice. Racket games and individual activities will have less information to consider.

The long term memory contains a large quantity of information relating to past experiences. It has a limitless capacity. Team sports will have many more variations for situations than racket or individual sports. One would almost never find themselves in an identical situation in a team games as the activity is very open and anything could happen. Racket sports are more closed than team sports and individual sports are again more closed than racket games. If the performer will never find a true match he will have to work with a past instance that was similar to the present situation; while the outcome could potentially be a success the decision made would not have been the best option. In team games, having a greater amount of past experiences will mean a longer time to match current situation to the past; this slows down the IP Model and decreases time available to perform the motor output.

The decision process relates to the comparison of the present situation (information in the short-term memory) and past experiences of the performer (information in the long term memory. Team games, being very open have many possible responses for any situation, so, team games will follow the choice-reaction-time model (Hick’s Law). The more closed the activity, the less outcomes possible, the less choice and thus the faster the reaction time. In individual sports, such as at the start of the 100m race; the athlete has one choice, to run at the sound of the gun, this is simple-reaction-time (it occurs much faster). Racket sports are intermediate between team and individual in this matter. If there are more possibilities, it’s harder to make the correct decision. A slow reaction time will result in a greater chance of error.

The motor output is the performance of the action selected by the decision process. It is guided by the movement pattern stored in the long term memory. The result is stored in the long term memory, be it positive or negative. Team games comprise of harder movements which take longer to perform; again experience plays a major part in the outcome of the motor output.

Other factors which could affect the IP Model are, time available, anticipation, level of fitness and psychological state. If the performer has a long time to consider all the possible responses and their outcomes, the chances of him choosing correctly increases. If the player is anticipating a movement he will be able to begin processing a response before the stimulus occurs, so increasing his chances of success.

The more closed the sport the greater opportunity for success as a result of anticipation. Level of fitness would influence the motor output stage of the IP Model; a performer with a higher level of fitness will be able to produce the necessary movement with greater ease and efficiency. A performer who is at their psychological peak for performance is likely to perform more quickly and accurately. If they are under-prepared they will be slow and careless. If they are stressed they will make rushed decisions and make the wrong choice.

In conclusion, it is evident that the IP Model is most complex when applied to team sports. Team games are externally paced and occur in an open environment. It is most difficult for the team player to make the correct decision as he has to consider many variables. The stimuli available are weaker, making the relevant information less evident. The number of relevant stimuli is greatest in team games, making the decision process harder.

The IP Model is simplest in individual sports as there are a small number of possible responses (usually one – 100m race start). The stimuli are strong in individual sports making the correct decision an easier one.

The player is most likely to anticipate the outcome in individual and racket sports as there are fewer outcomes possible. The more experienced player will be able to anticipate better.

How simple the IP Model will be for a sport depends mostly on the position of the sport on the Open — Closed continuum. The more closed the activity is the simpler the model becomes. With fewer variations there are fewer outcomes to consider.

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