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Markers of Expertise in Sport and Physical Activity: Triangulated Approaches

Project Description

The aim of this project is to adopt a mixed methods approach to determine the various factors – innate, learnt, and environmental – that ultimately contribute to skill acquisition and/or expertise within a specified domain.
As part of the LEAP Lab research group at Brunel University London (, the aim of the successful candidate will be to understand and improve the performance and learning of complex, dynamic skills across a domain of their choice, ranging from elite sport performance to everyday activities such as driving, cycling and navigating one’s environment safely.
The project will have one or more of the three following objectives:
1. To examine the factors (e.g., perceptual decision making and psychomotor abilities) that underpin skilled performance of an identified motor skill;
2. To explore the mediating effects of factors such as anxiety, attention, pressure, physiological load and personality traits, on execution of the skill; and
3. To determine how we may accelerate and/or enhance learning of the skills.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to use a variety of techniques including gaze tracking, performance analysis, psychometric testing, and motion capture; other techniques (e.g., TMS) may be available to candidates who can demonstrate suitable experience. This aside, the successful candidate will receive training as required. The target population(s) and specific measures will be determined jointly by the candidate and the supervisory team.

The supervisory team is made up of Dr David Broadbent whose research focuses on perceptual-cognitive skills in sport, the impact of anxiety on performance, and the use of performance analysis in sport; Dr Dan Bishop, an HCPC-registered Practitioner Psychologist whose research profile includes work on neural and psychological markers of expert perception and decision-making, optimisation of attention, and observational learning; Dr Adam Cocks, whose research interests are centred on the control of attention, vision, and movement specifically in older adults/clinical populations; and Dr Alexander Nowicky, whose expertise lies in the use of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques to study human voluntary control of movement and neuroplasticity.

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: View Website
Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.


Bishop, D., Moore, S., Horne, S. and Teszka, R. (2014) 'Attentional capture by spoken language: Effects on netballers’ visual task performance'. Journal of Sport Sciences, 32 (17). pp. 1611 - 1620. ISSN: 0264-0414
Broadbent, D., Gredin, NV., Rye, JL., Williams, AM. and Bishop, DT. (2018) 'The Impact of Contextual Priors and Anxiety on Performance Effectiveness and Processing Efficiency in Anticipation'. Cognition and Emotion, 40. pp. S79 - S79. ISSN: 1464-0600
Broadbent, D., Causer, J., Williams, AM. and Ford, PR. (2017) 'The role of error processing in the contextual interference effect during the training of perceptual-cognitive skills'. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43 (7). pp. 1329 - 1342. ISSN: 0096-1523
Cocks, A. J., Jackson, R. C., Bishop, D. T., & Williams, A. M. (2016). Anxiety, anticipation and contextual information: A test of attentional control theory. Cognition and Emotion, 30(6), 1037-1048.
D'Innocenzo, G., Gonzalez, C., Nowicky, A., Williams, A. and Bishop, D. (2017) 'Motor resonance during action observation is gaze-contingent: A TMS study'. Neuropsychologia, 103 (July). pp. 77 - 86. ISSN: 0028-3932
Ellmers, TJ., Cocks, AJ., Doumas, M., Williams, AM. and Young, W. (2016) 'Gazing into Thin Air: The Dual-Task Costs of Movement Planning and Execution during Adaptive Gait'. PloS ONE, 11 (11). pp. e0166063 - e0166063. ISSN: 1932-6203
Gredin, V., Bishop, D., Broadbent, D., Tucker, A. and Williams, A. (2018) 'Experts Integrate Explicit Contextual Priors and Environmental Information to Improve Anticipation Efficiency'. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 24 (4). pp. 1 - 8. ISSN: 1939-2192

How good is research at Brunel University London in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 28.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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