Dodgy Decision-Making

Many team games, one on one sports or just catching lunch involve us and our carnivorous animal friends trying to out dodge a dodger. One participant will feint and then move in a different direction so that the opponent is deceived and moves in the wrong direction.

So what is involved in this “dance”? Brault et al decided to use rugby as the definitive dodgy game and selected 14 top professionals and 14 non-players as test bunnies (1). 8 professional players from the French league were filmed running towards the camera and making feints to side step the viewer. The movies were turned into virtual reality images.

Two experiments were run with the test bunny defenders wearing virtual reality gear. In the first the movie was stopped just prior to the actual side step so the “defender” had to say which way the “attacker” was going to go. In the second, the action was carried through and the defender had to move to intercept the virtual attacker.

The professionals were much better at blocking than the non-players. The longer the defender could watch before they made their move improved the scores and the experts pushed that as much as possible, but basically it came down to reading the signs.

The dodger artfully moves his body (there are no female players in the French national league) to indicate the direction that he might be going. This is termed “deceptive movement”. However, the dodger is moving fast and his center of mass has to be under control for his intended direction. The center of mass movement is termed the “honest movement” in the paper.

So with practice, the defenders pick up the honest signals and see the deceptive signals for what they are which help their dodgy decision-making. The conclusion is that wearing distracting kit such as fluorescent boots or shoulder flashes would distract the catcher’s eye from the body’s center of mass.

Of course this is the trick well known to conjurors and politicians who do and say things to distract us from what is really going on. And, in spite of our skeptical natures, we fall for it time and again.


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