Perceiving passing opportunities in football: An information integration theoretical approach

Steiner, Silvan; Köstinger, Christel (February 2019). Perceiving passing opportunities in football: An information integration theoretical approach. In: Sport und Gehirn - 11th congress of the SGS/4S in Fribourg. - Book of abstracts (p. 74). Magglingen: Sportwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft der Schweiz

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Introduction: Athletes involved in interactive team sports are believed to perceive positional information such as the positions of team members and opponents by means of the behavioral opportunities the given situations afford them to carry out. To date, little is known about how multiple positional informers combine into such perceived opportunities. A recent study reported that open passing lanes to team members, loose defense by opponents, and team members’ positions near the ball carrier related to ball carriers’ decisions of whom they passed the ball, indicating the potential role these positional informers may have on the perception of passing opportunities (Steiner et al., 2018). However, the effects of the positional information on passing decisions varied substantially across situations. One interpretation of these varying effects is that various athletes adopt different strategies of how they use contextual information. The aim of this study was to test the plausibility of this interpretation by analyzing athletes’ integration of positional information into perceived passing opportunities and by testing whether athletes differ from each other regarding the importance they attribute to specific informers.

Methods: Twenty-six male soccer players (M = 24.89 years, SD = 3.50) participated in the scenario-based study. Adopting methods developed within the framework of the Information Integration Theory (IIT; Anderson, 1982), the study used a 3x3x3 full factorial within-subject design. Each participant rated 27 passing opportunities resulting from the combination of three values in each of a passing opportunity’s position-related factors (distance, openness of passing lane, defensive coverage). Data analysis included mixed linear modelling and inspection of individual information integration diagrams (IIDs).

Results: In the total sample, all three kinds of position-related information significantly affected the participants’ perceptions of the passing opportunities. Expectedly, the perceived quality of a passing opportunity increased the more open a passing lane to a team member became, the looser the team member was defended, and the closer he was to the ball carrier. However, individual IIDs revealed interpersonal differences in the athletes’ information integration: while most athletes seemed to integrate the positional information linearly, the perception of some athletes seemed to be based on the centering of one specific positional informer, or on a multiplicative information integration. Furthermore, significant random effects (β variance) of the factors openness of passing lane, defensive coverage, and distance revealed inter-individual differences in how much the positional information affected the players’ perceptions.

Discussion/Conclusion: The study provides evidence for the involvement of three kinds of positional information in players’ perception of passing opportunities. It reveals substantial interpersonal differences in the use of the information, supporting the interpretation that the varying effects of positional information on passing decisions found by Steiner et al. (2018) could be explained by interpersonally different perceptions of passing opportunities. A main Implication for research is to design studies that combine perception and decision measures and to test how the perception of passing opportunities actually mediates athletes’ passing decisions.

Anderson, N. H. (1982). Methods of information integration theory. New York: Academic Press.
Steiner, S., Rauh, S., Rumo, M., Sonderegger, K. & Seiler, R. (2018). Using position data to estimate effects of contextual features on passing decisions in football. Current Issues in Sport Science, 3:009. doi: 10.15203/CISS_2018.009

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW) > Sport Science II [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Steiner, Silvan


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment


Sportwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft der Schweiz




Silvan Steiner

Date Deposited:

27 Mar 2019 12:33

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:27




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