Science Applied to Weird Things: Grunting Tennis Players Edition

Via Yahoo Sports, I am referred to this journal article, which is a sort of “demonstration of concept” showing that, at least in principle, it’s bad form to make a loud obnoxious grunting noise (or, if you’re a Williams sister, a shriek) when you hit a tennis ball because it may confuse your opponent unfairly. Side note: Guess who’s virtually silent? That’s right, Roger.

Anyway, there’s not much else to say about this study because the methodology seems sound to me, if insufficient to immediately conclude that this kind of interference affects professional players during match play as well (and the authors are pretty up-front about this. As such, I’ll just let them do the talking:

We explored this potential detrimental effect of grunting by presenting videos of a tennis player hitting a ball to either side of a tennis court; the shot either did, or did not, contain a brief sound that occurred at the same time as contact. The participants’ task was to respond as quickly as possible, indicating whether the ball was being hit to the left- or right-side of the court. The results were unequivocal: The presence of an extraneous sound interfered with a participants’ performance, making their responses both slower and less accurate.

Neat Idea. Now why can’t I ever get paid to do stuff like this?


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

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