Maintenance of perceptual cognitive expertise in female volleyball players


Understanding how to maintain skill with age is becoming increasingly important and while there is strong evidence that ´hardware´ elements of the perceptual and cognitive system (sensory and cortical factors) decline with age (Andersen, 2012; Brach & Schott, 2003), other components of the visual system and the brain's ability to process (i.e., software elements) visual stimuli change with age (Berke, 2009). Different studies have shown that many elements of experts' superior perceptual and motor performance can be maintained with age (Baker & Schorer, 2009). A recent study by Fischer et al. (2015) focused on the maintenance of perceptual and motor performances in older aged basketball experts, noting maintenance of motor but not perceptual performance (fixation duration) and suggesting older aged experts are able to compensate for losses in perceptual skills. The current study examined aspects of skilled perceptual performance among older female expert (n = 6), advanced (n = 7) and novice (n = 10) volleyball players. As expected, there were skill-related differences among the groups although analyses of differences in perceptual performances between the groups were mixed. Our results highlight several interesting areas for future work including the possibility that age-related changes in the performance environment might drive maintenance or decline of skill. This research contributes to a surprisingly limited evidence base regarding the influence of age on perceptual skill.