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Slow motion playback makes football referees harsher

June 10, 2018

Football referees penalize situations more severely when watching them in slow motion compared to real time, according to a study published in the open access journal of the Psychonomic Society, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.

Dr Jochim Spitz, Prof. W. Helsen and colleagues at University of Leuven, Belgium, studied the response of 88 elite football referees to video clips of a foul warranting a yellow card.

The researchers found no significant difference in the accuracy of a referee's decision about if a foul had occurred or not, with slow-motion videos (63% accurate) compared to the real-time videos (61% accurate). However, the judgement of intention or force behind a foul differed. More red cards were given by referees watching in slow motion compared to those watching real time video playbacks.

Dr Spitz, corresponding author of the study, said: "Our results suggest that slow motion can increase the severity of a judgement of intention, making the difference between perceiving an action as careless (no card), reckless (yellow card) or with excessive force (red card). The finding that referees were more likely to make more severe decisions following slow motion replays, is an important consideration for developing guidelines for the implementation of VAR in football leagues worldwide."

The authors concluded that although slow motion playback could be a useful tool in assessing some decisions, such as off-side and determining the exact impact of a contact, it may not be the best tool for decisions that involve judging human behaviour and intention.

Dr Spitz explained: "Slow motion video may make it clearer who initiated a foul, whether there actually was contact and whether a foul occurred either inside or outside the penalty area. However, judging human emotion, like intentionality is quite another story. It is also the reason why slow motion footage cannot be used anymore in the court room as it increases the perceived intent."

Dr Spitz added: "This is the first time that the impact of slow motion video on decision making has been studied in sports referees and it is timely given the current debate on video assistant refereeing (VAR), which will be used in the World Cup."

To investigate the impact of viewing speeds on decisions made by referees, the authors showed 88 elite football referees from 5 European countries 60 video clips of foul situations from football matches in real time or slow motion. Two independent ex-international referees that are currently acting as refereeing experts determined the correct decisions as a point of reference and then the referees who took part in the study categorised the fouls as they would in a real match by awarding a yellow card, a red card or no card.
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Notes to editor:

1. Research article:
The impact of video speed on the decision-making process of sports officials
Spitz et al. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2018
DOI: 10.1186/s41235-018-0105-8

When the embargo lifts the article will be available at: https://cognitiveresearchjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41235-018-0105-8

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BMC's open access policy.

2. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications publishes new empirical and theoretical work covering all areas of Cognition, with a special emphasis on use-inspired basic research: fundamental research that grows from hypotheses about real-world problems.

Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications is an official journal of the Psychonomic Society. For further reading about this study, please see the Psychonomic Society's blog.

3. A pioneer of open access publishing, BMC has an evolving portfolio of high quality peer-reviewed journals including broad interest titles such as BMC Biology and BMC Medicine, specialist journals such as Malaria Journal and Microbiome, and the BMC series. At BMC, research is always in progress. We are committed to continual innovation to better support the needs of our communities, ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, and championing the benefits of open research. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.

BioMed Central

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