Do Athletes Excel at Everyday Tasks?

CHADDOCK, LAURA; NEIDER, MARK B.; VOSS, MICHELLE W.; GASPAR, JOHN G.; KRAMER, ARTHUR F.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 10 - pp 1920-1926
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318218ca74
Applied Sciences

Purpose: Cognitive enhancements are associated with sport training. We extended the sport-cognition literature by using a realistic street crossing task to examine the multitasking and processing speed abilities of collegiate athletes and nonathletes.

Methods: Pedestrians navigated trafficked roads by walking on a treadmill in a virtual world, a challenge that requires the quick and simultaneous processing of multiple streams of information.

Results: Athletes had higher street crossing success rates than nonathletes, as reflected by fewer collisions with moving vehicles. Athletes also showed faster processing speed on a computer-based test of simple reaction time, and shorter reaction times were associated with higher street crossing success rates.

Conclusions: The results suggest that participation in athletics relates to superior street crossing multitasking abilities and that athlete and nonathlete differences in processing speed may underlie this difference. We suggest that cognitive skills trained in sport may transfer to performance on everyday fast-paced multitasking abilities.

Department of Psychology, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL

Address for correspondence: Laura Chaddock, M.A., Department of Psychology, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801; E-mail: lchaddo2@illinois.edu.

Submitted for publication November 2010.

Accepted for publication March 2011.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine