Authors: Matthias Weigelt, Iris Güldenpenning, Yvonne Steggemann-Weinrich
The head fake in basketball has been used as a paradigmatic example to investigate the cognitive mechanisms of deceptive actions in sports. When a player looks to one side while passing the ball to the opposite side, responses of the observer are slower and more error prone than when the player looks into the pass direction. It is not known if this head-fake effect is based on the processing of the action-irrelevant gaze direction or on the head orientation, or on both. Three experiments were designed to examine the impact of these two different sources of information conflict during the processing of head fakes in basketball. In Experiment 1, the size of the head-fake effect was not reduced when the eyes of the player were covered. In Experiment 2a and 2b, the relative influence of gaze direction and head orientation was disentangled. In both experiments, the head-fake effect remained fully present when only the head orientation was changed while the eyes gazed into the pass direction, whereas (vice versa) the effect was (almost) gone when the eyes looked away while the head was oriented into the pass direction. These findings suggest that the head-fake effect in basketball is based on the automating processing of the head orientation, but not on the (otherwise socially important) gaze information.
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