Perception, action, and cognition of football referees in extreme temperatures: Impact on decision performance

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Different professional domains require high levels of physical performance alongside fast and accurate decision-making. Construction workers, police officers, firefighters, elite sports men and women, the military and emergency medical professionals are often exposed to hostile environments with limited options for behavioral coping strategies. In this (mini) review we use football refereeing as an example to discuss the combined effect of intense physical activity and extreme temperatures on decision-making and suggest an explicative model. In professional football competitions can be played in temperatures ranging from -5°C in Norway to 30°C in Spain for example. Despite these conditions, the referee’s responsibility is to consistently apply the laws fairly and uniformly, and to ensure the rules are followed without waning or adversely influencing the competitiveness of the play. However, strenuous exercise in extreme environments imposes increased physiological and psychological stress that can affect decision-making. Therefore, the physical exertion required to follow the game and the thermal strain from the extreme temperatures may hinder the ability of referees to make fast and accurate decisions. Here, we review literature on the physical and cognitive requirements of football refereeing and how extreme temperatures may affect referees’ decisions. Research suggests that both hot and cold environments have a negative impact on decision-making but data specific to decision-making is still lacking. A theoretical model of decision-making under the constraint of intense physical activity and thermal stress is suggested. Future naturalistic studies are needed to validate this model and provide clear recommendations for mitigating strategies.




Gaoua, N., de Oliveira, R. F., & Hunter, S. (2017, August 29). Perception, action, and cognition of football referees in extreme temperatures: Impact on decision performance. Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers Media S.A.

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