Visual search strategies and executive functioning in South African sailors

Walker, Claire Nancy (2015-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Background: The ability to locate and identify relevant visual information is essential for skilful behaviour as well as to make performance-related decisions. Decision-making is a subcomponent of executive functioning and involves choosing between two or more possible solutions. Visual search behaviour is a dynamic self-organised perceptual skill that is based on the interaction between constraints imposed by the task, the environment, and the individual characteristics of the athlete (Williams, Ward, Smeeton, & Allen, 2004). Technologies-based feedback such as visual search behaviour may provide relevant information to enhance skill acquisition and sport performance in sailors and, as such, its usefulness to sport scientists, coaches and athletes in training is beneficial. Despite recognizing the importance of the visual search behaviour in sailing little research has been done. To the researcher‟s knowledge, no research has been done on describing South African expert sailors‟ visual search behaviour and executive functions. Aim: This investigation set out to determine the i) visual search strategies in two simulated events and ii) executive functions, as an indicator of decision-making skills, of expert South African sailors. Methods: The investigation followed an observational method descriptive design, where National level South African sailors (n = 61), with an average age of 26 years (SD = 8.88) and professional sailing years of 14 (SD = 7.54), volunteered to participate in the investigation. Visual search strategies of the sailors were determined using a mobile eye tracker during two sailing simulations (computer, n = 24; and radio controlled boats; n = 22). In order to determine the executive functioning (EF) capabilities of the sailors (n = 15), a battery of valid EF tests was compiled comprising the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Trail Making Test (TMT part A and B), and adapted Stroop Task. Results: All the sailors fixated considerably more on their own boat than any other fixation location; however the top ranking and successful groups performed fewer fixations (d between 0.29 – 0.72) of longer duration (d between 0.05 – 0.59) compared to their counterparts in both simulation studies. The helms performed better on the TMT and Stroop task, while the crews achieved better on the WCST (d = 0.92 – 1.62). Conclusion: By describing sailors‟ visual search strategies, we know what they consider relevant information which contributes to better decision-making and subsequent skilled performance. This may help coaches to enhance sailing performance in less experienced sailors by directing their visual search behaviour to these relevant cues, specifically to look more at their own boat in order to maintain speed and improve performance. The executive functioning skills tell us that successful sailors require the skill to shift their attention and solve problems based on the constantly evolving environment.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Agtergrond: Die vermoë om relevante visuele inligting op te spoor en te identifiseer is noodsaaklik vir vaardige gedrag sowel as om prestasie-verwante besluite te neem. Besluitneming is 'n komponent van uitvoerende funksionering, en dit behels om die keuse tussen twee of meer moontlike oplossings te maak. Visuele-soekgedrag is 'n dinamiese self-georganiseerde perseptuele vaardigheid wat gebaseer is op die interaksie tussen beperkings wat opgelê word deur die taak, die omgewing, en die individuele eienskappe van die atleet (Williams, Ward, Smeeton, & Allen, 2004). Tegnologieë-gebaseerde terugvoer soos visuele-soekgedrag kan relevante inligting verskaf wat „n verbetering teweeg bring in verkryging van vaardighede en sportprestasie in seiljagters en, as sodanig, is hierdie inlingting nuttig en voordelig vir sportwetenskaplikes, afrigters en atlete in opleiding. Ten spyte van die erkenning van die belangrikheid van die visuele-soek-gedrag in seiljagvaart, is min navorsing gedoen. Geen navorsing is al gedoen oor die beskrywing van visuele-soekgedrag en uitvoerende funksies van Suid-Afrikaanse kenner seiljagters, waarvan die navorser bewus is. Doel: Hierdie ondersoek is ingestel om i) die visuele-soekstrategieë in twee gesimuleerde gebeure te bepaal, en ii) uitvoerende funksies, as 'n aanwyser van besluitnemingvermoëns, van kundige Suid-Afrikaanse seiljagters vas te stel. Metodes: Die ondersoek het 'n waarnemings-metode beskrywende ontwerp gevolg, waar die nasionale vlak Suid-Afrikaanse seiljagters (n = 61), met 'n gemiddelde ouderdom van 26 jaar (SD = 8.88) en professionele seiljagvaartjare van 14 (SD = 7.54), vrywillig deel geneem het in die ondersoek. Visuele-soekstrategieë van die seiljagters is bepaal met behulp van 'n mobiele eye tracker tydens twee seiljagvaart simulasies (rekenaar, n = 24, en radio beheerde bote; n = 22). Om uitvoerende funksie vermoëns van die seiljagters (n = 15) te bepaal is 'n battery van 'n geldige toetse saamgestel wat bestaan uit die Montreal Kognitiewe Assesering (MoCA), Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), Trail Making Test (TMT deel A en B), en 'n aangepaste Stroop taak. Resultate: Al die seiljagters het aansienlik meer op hul eie boot gefikseer as enige ander fiksasie plekke; die top posisie en suksesvolle groepe het egter minder fiksasies (d tussen 0.29 – 0.72) van langer duur (d tussen 0.05 – 0.59) uitgevoer in vergelyking met hul eweknieë. Die seiljagstuurders het beter presteer op die TMT en Stroop taak, terwyl die bemaning beter tellings op die WCST behaal het. Gevolgtrekking: Deur die visuele-soekstrategieë van seiljagters te beskryf, weet ons wat hulle as relevante inligting beskou wat bydra tot beter besluitneming en daaropvolgende vaardige prestasie. Dit kan afrigters help om seiljagvaartprestasie in minder ervare seiljagters te verbeter deur hulle aan te wys om hul visuele-soekgedrag op hierdie betrokke leidrade te fokus, spesifiek om meer op hul eie boot te kyk om spoed te handhaaf en te verbeter. Die uitvoerende funksie vermoëns vertel ons dat suksesvolle seiljagters benodig die vermoë om in voortdurend veranderende omgewing hul aandag te kan verskuif en probleme op te los.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98077
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