Blowing the Whistle on Umpire Decision Making: Investigating the Cognitive and Perceptual Correlates of Decision Making Accuracy in Netball Officials.
The requirement for sports officials to make accurate decisions in accordance to both the ‘letter’ and the ‘spirit’ of the law is a challenging task. Due to the complexity and ambiguity inherent in sport decision making, error is inevitable. This study investigated the perceptual and cognitive processes that influence decision making accuracy in netball umpires. Umpires from the Netball South community were recruited to complete two decision making tasks, including a theory-based task, and a video-based task. The theory-based task involved questions pertaining to the contact and obstructions laws, which are typical of the theory tests used in the umpire accreditation process. The video-based task required umpires to watch a series of short video scenarios, while wearing an eye-tracking system. The umpires were asked to determine if a penalty was involved or not, as well as providing a rationale, and the cues they used to make that decision. From the video-based task, information about the umpires’ gaze behaviours and decision rationales were identified and analysed to understand how they relate to decision making error. The findings illustrate how different stages along the decision making process can impact decision making error. Umpires who made correct decisions adopted the same visual search behaviour, and looked in the same locations as umpires who made incorrect decisions. However, the higher order cognitive factors, such as interpretation and judgement seem to be the most influential stage in the decision making sequence on the outcome of decision accuracy. Through gaining knowledge and an understanding of how umpires make accurate decisions, it is hoped that the training protocols used in umpire development can incorporate empirically driven research to speed up the progression towards decision making expertise.
Advisor: O'Hare, David
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Decisionmaking; Netball; umpires
Research Type: Thesis