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PARTICIPATE IN PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH ON POLO - "WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, PART 2"

Mar 22, 2022 4:39 AM

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Principle Investigator, Samantha Huffman, played intercollegiate polo at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas.
Principle Investigator, Samantha Huffman, played intercollegiate polo at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas.

Graduating from Texas Tech in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, Samantha Huffman, a polo player and PhD candidate, sought to learn more about the sport of polo through the lens of academia. Developing "Spot the Ball: A Study of Situation Awareness in Athletes," Huffman hopes to give more academic attention to the sport she loves. She also played intercollegiate polo for Texas Tech Polo Club (2011-2014) and worked for the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Polo Club in Kaufman, Texas, from 2016 to 2019. Learn more about the results of the study below and her next upcoming study.

Field Awareness, or more commonly known Situation Awareness, is used to help players perform well and keep themselves and their ponies safe during a game of polo. It is essentially knowing what is going on around you and using that knowledge to help anticipate future event outcomes. For instance, if you are running down the line after an opponent and they raise their mallet for a nearside-back, you can anticipate that the ball will come back towards you. You can then turn your pony back on the line, ready to intercept the backshot before your opponent even contacts the ball, thus saving crucial time and maybe even giving you a leg-up on your competition.

Of course, in order to read the situation and anticipate its outcomes, you have to process a variety of visual cues, such as the line of the ball, your opponent’s mallet position, the direction of the goal, and the positioning of your teammates and opponents. As any player will attest, this is not easily done—yet the high-goal players seem to have a sixth sense, psychic skill with anticipating passes. How does that even happen? Simple answer: a high level of Situation Awareness.

Joaquin Panelo and Hilario Ulloa keep their eyes trained on the ball to anticipate possible play outcomes. ©David Lominska
Joaquin Panelo and Hilario Figueras keep their eyes trained on the ball to anticipate possible play outcomes. ©David Lominska

To study the effects of Situation Awareness (SA) on anticipation ability, a study was conducted by researchers at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England, using the ‘What Happens Next?’ (WHN) method to assess SA in polo players, non-polo-playing athletes, and control participants with no sporting experience.

The participants viewed eighteen polo clips separated into offensive or defensive play situations. Each clip was frozen prior to a critical moment, and participants answered the question of, “What happens next?” This was designed to test the anticipation abilities of the participants, with the assumption that polo players would be better at anticipating the outcomes when compared to athletes and control participants.

It was found that in offensive play situations, polo players were more accurate than athletes and control participants, as predicted. However, in defensive play situations, polo players were worse than athletes and controls, which was not predicted. It was also found that polo players were biased towards choosing offensive-related answer choices, regardless of whether the clip showed an offensive or defensive situation.

One possible explanation for this is that polo players had a specific strategy when watching the videos, one that was potentially created around the assumption that each clip showed an offensive play. It is possible that this strategy was effective during situations which matched their mental representation of offensive plays, but it was detrimental during non-matching situations showing defensive plays.

"What Happens Next: Part 2" will ask polo players to determine possible offensive and defensive situations, such as the result of a ride-off as seen between Josh Hyde and Mackenzie Weisz. ©David Lominska
"What Happens Next: Part 2" will ask polo players to determine possible offensive and defensive situations, such as the result of a ride-off as seen between Josh Hyde and Mackenzie Weisz. ©David Lominska

It is possible that by informing the participants of the type will reduce or minimize the bias of viewing the clips with an offensive mindset. In a real polo game, players usually have more time to determine whether the play is offensive or defensive, and they can then more accurately predict the outcome. Therefore, a new study was created with the aim to investigate whether priming the participants to the type of clip (offensive or defensive) prior to viewing the clips will improve accuracy scores in a polo WHN task.

Participants will be shown eighteen short video clips of a polo game, separated into two separate blocks. One block will show offensive clips, with the instructions stating the clips will show the team in possession of the ball will make an offensive play. The other block will show defensive clips, with the instructions stating the clips will show the team not in possession of the ball will make a defensive play. Each clip will be paused prior to an event, and participants will answer the question of, “What happens next?” by choosing an answer from four multiple-choice options.

Polo is under-represented in many scientific and academic fields. There are significant gaps in academic knowledge surrounding polo, particularly from a psychology standpoint. Huffman is fortunate in her position as a PhD researcher and polo player to be able to fill in some of those gaps. By taking part in this study, you will personally help to shine a research spotlight on the sport of polo.

The voluntary “What Happens Next: Part 2 - To What Effect Does Contextual Information Improve Situation Awareness?" study takes approximately 20 minutes to complete and requires the use of a laptop or desktop computer.

For more information about the project, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the research team.

Principle Investigator: Samantha Huffman
Department of Psychology
Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham, United Kingdom
NG1 4FQ
samantha.huffman2014@my.ntu.ac.uk

Supervisor: Dr. Andrew Mackenzie
Department of Psychology
Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham, United Kingdom
NG1 4FQ
andrew.mackenzie@ntu.ac.uk

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