Maximising grip on deception and disguise: expert sports performance during competitive interactions

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Expert performers in fast-ball and combat sports continuously interact with their opponents and, if they are to be successful, adapt behaviour in order to gain an advantage. For example, disguise and deception are recognised as skilful behaviours that are employed to disrupt an opponent’s ability to successfully anticipate their actions. We contend that such skilled behaviour unfolds during the interaction between opposing players, yet typical research approaches omit and/or artificially script these interactions. To promote the study of skilled behaviour as it emerges during competitive interactions, we offer an account informed by contemporary ecological perspectives for shaping investigation into how deception and disguise can be used to gain an advantage over an opponent and the challenges it poses to anticipation. We propose that each player attempts to develop maximum grip on the interaction through exploiting information across multiple timescales to position themselves as to facilitate openness to relevant affordances. The act of deception can be understood as offering a misleading affordance that an opponent is invited to act on, imposing a significant challenge to an opponent’s ability to attain grip by manipulating the information available. Grounded in our ecological perspective, we emphasise the need for future investigation into: (1) the role of disguise for disrupting anticipation; (2) how deception can be employed to gain an advantage by manipulating information on multiple timescales, before detailing; (3) how opposing performers go beyond merely exploiting information and actively elicit information to deal with deception and disguise during an interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages9
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Issue number1
Early online date8 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • maximum grip
  • misleading affordance
  • continuum of contact
  • deception
  • disguise
  • anticipation
  • UKRI
  • ESRC
  • ES/ P000673/1


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