Nav: Home

Who really hit the basketball out of bounds?

April 24, 2019

The shot clock reads 5, and a win forces a game 7. Two hands outstretched as the players - one in royal blue and yellow, the other black - hurtle towards the edge of the court. The ball sails out of bounds, and the play ends. Both players insist to the referee that the other touched the ball last. The crowd roars.

Deciding which player touched the ball last, and which team should receive the ball, is difficult because the event lasts only fractions of a second. But a wrong decision can impact the outcome of a game.

The players' reactions in situations like this are often attributed to acting skills, even among professional players, but a team of Arizona State University psychologists wondered if both players might actually experience touching the ball first. In a paper published April 24 in Science Advances, the researchers tested how people interpret the timing and sequence of physical touches.

"When two players hit the ball out of bounds, there are frequently arguments between them about who touched it last," said Ty Tang, an ASU psychology graduate student and first author on the study.

While it is possible that both players are lying to get the ball back, Tang and his graduate advisor Michael McBeath, professor of psychology, thought it could also be possible that both players really do experience hitting the ball first.

"With this clever study, Tang and McBeath zoom in on those moments that millions of sports fans look at every day," said neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author David Eagleman, who is an expert in time perception. "What would have previously been marked up to deceit or misjudgment has now been brought into the realm of basic neuroscience."

What we perceive is not always reality

The research team created three tests to look at how people experience the order of perceptual events, like nearly simultaneous physical touches.

In the first experiment, two people sat across from each other at a table with a divider that prevented each participant from seeing the other. When a light flashed, the participants used their right index finger to quickly touch a sensor on the back of the other person's left hand. Each participant then pushed a button to indicate whether they had touched the other person's hand first or vice versa. The pair repeated this sequence 50 times, each time the light flashed. The light flashed at random times, and the participants were not told whether they were correct in their assessment of who had touched first.

When the touches happened at the same time both participants strongly believed they touched the other person earlier, answering 67% of the time that they were first.

"Even when the other person's touch was 50 milliseconds earlier, it was still perceived to occur at the same time as one's own touch," Tang said.

The second experiment replaced one of the people with a mechanical device that tapped the participant's hand. The third experiment had participants determine whether they touched first or a beep sounded first. These two follow-up experiments tested if the presence of people was necessary and if the timing effects found in the first experiment generalized to other senses.

The results were the same: People always insisted they touched first. In the second and third experiments, there was again a 50 millisecond delay between the actual external touch or beep and when the participants felt it.

"The 50 millisecond time delay makes a lot of sense because we know the brain is always predicting our actions and perceptions" McBeath said. "People are generally accurate in the real-time perception of their own actions, like hitting and catching a baseball, but we need a little extra time to process something unplanned, like an unexpected tap on the shoulder. When something is unexpected, there is a slight perceptual delay while the brain figures it out."

The findings from the study suggest the experience of an event a person initiates and one that happens to them are different. People seem to sequence these events in time by prioritizing their own action.

"Although we tend to think of time as something the brain passively tracks, in fact it is something the brain actively constructs. Studies like this demonstrate that our notion of when something happened is subjective - and is biased in clear, measurable ways," Eagleman said.
-end-
This study was funded by Arizona State University and the Global Sports Initiative at ASU.

Arizona State University

Related Brain Articles:

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.
Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.
Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.
BRAIN Initiative tool may transform how scientists study brain structure and function
Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions.
Wiring diagram of the brain provides a clearer picture of brain scan data
In a study published today in the journal BRAIN, neuroscientists led by Michael D.
Blue Brain Project releases first-ever digital 3D brain cell atlas
The Blue Brain Cell Atlas is like ''going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth'' -- providing previously unavailable information on major cell types, numbers and positions in all 737 brain regions.
Landmark study reveals no benefit to costly and risky brain cooling after brain injury
A landmark study, led by Monash University researchers, has definitively found that the practice of cooling the body and brain in patients who have recently received a severe traumatic brain injury, has no impact on the patient's long-term outcome.
Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity'
Researchers from the Salk Institute have shown that astrocytes -- long-overlooked supportive cells in the brain -- help to enable the brain's plasticity, a new role for astrocytes that was not previously known.
Largest brain study of 62,454 scans identifies drivers of brain aging
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John's Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging.
More Brain News and Brain Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that's popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.   If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood.  To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here.  To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.  And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.   If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. And lastly, Tatiana Prowell's tweet that tipped us off is here. This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.