On the multisensory nature of anticipation in tennis


The vast majority of studies on anticipation in sport has focused on visual sources of information deemed necessary for predicting an opponent's action. Recent empirical evidence, however, indicates that other sources of information such as auditory information stemming from the racquet-ball-contact in tennis may be integrated when predicting the ball's trajectory (Cañal-Bruland et al., 2018). In brief, Cañal-Bruland et al. (2018) systematically manipulated the loudness of the sound produced at racquet-ball-contact and had participants estimate the landing locations of the ball. Results showed that the louder the sound, the longer participants estimated the ball's trajectory to be. A possible explanation for this finding is that sound provides useful information about the power of impact and hence the ball's speed (Sors et al., 2017). Using a within-subject-design, here we tested this hypothesis by asking participants to watch videos of tennis rallies in which the sound of racquet-ball-contact was present or not present. In two separate blocks counterbalanced for order, participants (i) judged the ball's landing location and (ii) estimated the ball's relative speed. Results showed that when the sound of racquet-ball-contact was present (as opposed to when it was not), participants judged the ball's trajectory to be longer. Importantly, the ball's speed was also estimated to be significantly faster when sound information was present. Our findings indicate that the auditory system adds to the anticipation of the ball's speed and the length of the ball's trajectory. These findings are consistent with current theories on the multisensory nature of human perception.