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14-02-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2021

Psychological Research 3/2021

Ebbinghaus visual illusion: no robust influence on novice golf-putting performance

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2021
François Maquestiaux, Mahé Arexis, Guillaume Chauvel, Josepha Ladoy, Pierrick Boyer, Marie Mazerolle
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Do visual illusions reliably improve sports performance? To address this issue, we used procedures inspired by Witt et al. (Psychol Sci 23:397–399, 2012) seminal study, which reported that putting on a miniature golf course was positively influenced by an increase in apparent hole size induced by the Ebbinghaus visual illusion. Because Witt et al.’s motor task—putting golf balls toward a hole from the distance of 3.5 m—was impossible for participants who were novices in golf (Experiment 1a), we decided to shorten the putting distance (i.e., 2 m instead of 3.5 m) in Experiment 1b. Otherwise, this second experiment closely followed every other aspects of Witt et al.’s procedure (i.e., one small or one standard golf hole surrounded by a ring of small or large circles). However, this attempt to replicate Witt et al.’s findings failed: the Ebbinghaus illusion significantly influenced neither hole perception nor putting performance. In two subsequent experiments, we encouraged the emergence of the effect of the illusion by simultaneously presenting both versions of the illusion on the mat. This major adaptation successfully modified the perceived size of the hole but had no impact on putting performance (Experiment 2), even when the putting task was made easier by shortening the putting distance to only 1 m (Experiment 3). In the absence of detectable effects of the illusion on putting performance, we conclude that the effects of visual illusions on novice sports performance do not represent a robust phenomenon.

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