Sunday, January 01, 2006

to flame or not to flame

recent rsd post references world games team member and backhoe player jessi witt's doctoral research in cognitive psychology. seems she's looking into the effect perception has on athletic performance, specifically how much bigger the ball seems to good hitters in softball (and, one would assume, baseball). the post contains a quote from a livescience.com article posted on msnbc.com in which witt likens the effect to her own experiences as a world class ultimate player. she goes on to explain that when she's throwing against the wind her cutters seem far away, but when she's throwing with the wind her cutters seem very close. am i the only one who has a problem with this? how did it actually get published in anything?

what jessi is talking about has absolutely nothing to do with perception. the truth is that it's harder to throw into the wind and easier to throw with the wind. she is probably neither strong enough nor skilled enough to reach the cutters when she's throwing into the wind, so they are, effectively, farther away. by contrast, nothing about the environmental conditions makes the softball any easier to hit for the good hitters. therefore, jessi's comment is totally beside the point, and the fact that she thinks it is relevant suggests she doesn't really understand her own research. so, do i post this on rsd?

and while i'm at it, do i also post that pretty much anyone on the team other than jessi will tell anyone willing to listen that jessi was easily the worst player on the team and really had no bisuness being on the team at all? talk about coming back with a bang, not to mention pissing in your own pool, figuratively, of course.

not that i've ever really cared what the people around here think. besides, i rarely swim.

10 comments:

parinella said...

The quotes that appear in an article are just whatever the writer thinks will sound cool (e.g., "flashlight-sized joint") and might not even be accurate. While I agree that the point she made is irrelevant to the subject, why not just give her the benefit of the doubt that she was just trying to come up with another way to tell the writer what she was doing?

Fek said...

"and while i'm at it, do i also post that pretty much anyone on the team other than jessi will tell anyone willing to listen that jessi was easily the worst player on the team and really had no bisuness being on the team at all?"

These are some mean spirited personal attacks, no? Is this really Ken Dobyns, or someone pretending? doesn't he know how to spell business?

Marshall said...

Just my opinion: I don't think you post about Jessi, at least not in quite those terms. People will tend to respond to the idea that you're putting words in other people's mouths and take it as a personal attack and responded to that, rather than to get into any issues of real player evaluation, how the team was determined (or should be in the future), or whatnot.

Then again, I suspect you know that and it was probably a somewhat rhetorical question. Posting in those terms would certainly generate attention, though, which is harder and harder to do in a louder and more verbose - if more milk toast - community.

And fek - I think for the moment it's probably safe to assume that Kenny can spell, but like most of us has less than 100% accuracy as a typist and doesn't proofread all that thoroughly. Hardly worth the attention, really.

H said...

I would suggest that, since the comments were in a newspaper, they could have been misinterpreted, misrepresented, or just plain misunderstood by the reporter. It's a common occurrence when science gets into the press. A quick google search for her name revealed her CV which lists her actual publications, and which are reproduced below. Reading those, along with some of the early references, would probably give you more insight into her work.

Publications
Witt, J.K., & Proffitt, D.R. (2005). See the ball, hit the ball: Apparent ball size is correlated with batting average. Psychological Science, 16, 937-938.
Witt, J.K., Proffitt, D.R., & Epstein, W. (2005). Tool use affects perceived distance but only when you intend to use it. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 880-888.
Witt, J.K., Proffitt, D.R., & Epstein, W. (2004). Perceiving distance: A role of effort and intent. Perception, 33, 570-590.

Submitted Manuscripts
Witt, J.K., & Proffitt, D.R. (submitted). Perceived slant: A dissociation between perception and action. Perception.
Witt, J.K., & Willingham, D.T. (submitted). Evidence for Separate Representations for Action and Location in Implicit Motor Sequencing. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

Manuscripts In Preparation
Witt, J.K., Proffitt, D.R., & Epstein, W. (in preparation). Perceptual biases for planning actions: What happens when you change your mind?
Witt, J.K., Stefanucci, J. K., Riener, C. R., & Proffitt, D.R. (in preparation). Seeing beyond the target: An effect of environmental context on distance perception.

BK said...

seems she's looking into the effect perception has on athletic performance, specifically how much bigger the ball seems to good hitters in softball

I believe you've mistated her intentions. After reading some of her other publications, I think she's looking into how athletic ability affects perception. The more talented the player, the less effort hitting a ball requires, and thus the larger the ball appears. Players see the ball as bigger as a result of their talent increasing. They do not become better hitters because they began perceiving the ball as larger.

This article seems to be similar to the conclusions the authors reached in 'Perceiving distance: A role of effort and intent' (Jessica K Witt, Dennis R Proffitt, William Epstein 2004).

Abstract. Perceiving egocentric distance is not only a function of the optical variables to which it relates, but also a function of people's current physiological potential to perform intended actions. In a set of experiments, we showed that, as the effort associated with walking increases, perceived distance increases if the perceiver intends to walk the extent, but not if the perceiver intends to throw. Conversely, as the effort associated with throwing increases, perceived distance increases if people intend to throw to the target, but not if they intend to walk. Perceiving distance combines the geometry of the world with our behavior goals and the potential of our body to achieve these goals.

Thus, throwing a disc against the wind requires more effort, and so the distance to the intended receiver will be perceived as further than if you were throwing the same distance with the wind.

In that article, they held the person constant and looked at how changing the difficulty of the task affected perception. In the softball article they held the task constant, and varied the ability to complete the task, looking for a correlation with the perception.

I see the connection.

Tarr said...

While the analogy is not perfect (and does not have to be), it's certainly possible that what Jessi said accurately describes her perceptions. Maybe when throwing a 25 yard pass downwind, she really does perceive the receiver as being 20 yards away, and maybe when throwing upwind she'd perceive that same receiver as being 35 yards away. This would be a subconscious way of effecting the right amount of power on your throws. It would be hard to test this, but it would pe possible to set up an analagous experiment. Have someone throw a few passes in a given direction, then show them a few stick figure drawings and ask them to point to the one that corresponds to the size of the player they threw to.

Transitioning smoothly to your second point, Jessi probably wasn't the best choice for the World Games team, but inability to throw the disc far is not the reason. My guess is that the people who selected the team thought they could create a mixed team where the women did most of the handling, and Jessi fit that philosophy. As it turns out Deb Cussen fit into that role, but the rest of the main handlers were men.

Justin R said...

Doesn't all this just state the obvious? To an NBA all star the 3 point line doesn't look like it's that far from the net. To your average knucklehead like me that shoots around 1/5 from behind the line (without coverage) it seems pretty far to shoot.

cash27 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cash27 said...

Have to agree with KD on this one, it was a pretty silly comment.

Using Justin's example...the reason the line looks far to you is because you do not practice enough to make it an easy shot. For instance, to me it is not a difficult shot at all because I play alot of bball and have practiced the shot.

Carry that into ultimate, more practice throwing the disc and thowing it longer distances makes you a better thrower over long distances. The better you get at throwing into the wind, the farther you will be able to throw into the wind.

In other words, I would say it is her mind saying I can't make that throw because the cutter is to far down field and I can't throw that far in in the wind. Now is that perception, or reality.

Keep em coming Kenny!

Anonymous said...

Don't you think there is something to confidence effecting performance. And therefore you begin to perceive things slow down, a ball looks bigger, you are so focused you see the whole field. Whereas watch a quarterback lose his confidence (see Payton Manning, first three quarters of todays playoff game)struggle and not be able to hit the side of a barn and then magically, hit a few receivers, get in rhythm and now he perceives that the field is wide open and all is easy.

Couldn't this be said in favor of perception affecting performance?

Oh Snap!