Skilled deceivers are better action perceivers and vice versa

Ryan Raffan, David L. Mann, Geert J.P. Savelsbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Skilled actors rely on deception to disrupt the perceptual ability of opponents who seek to anticipate action intentions. Common-coding theory (Prinz, 1997) purports that action and perception share common origins in the brain, and therefore it seems plausible that the ability to ‘see through’ a deceptive action would be associated with a capacity to perform the same action. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the ability to perform a deceptive action would be related to the ability to perceive the same type of action. Fourteen skilled rugby players performed deceptive (side-step) and non-deceptive actions while running towards a camera. The deceptiveness of those participants was determined by testing the ability of a separate group of eight equally skilled observers to anticipate the impeding running directions using a temporally occluded video-based test. Based on the overall response accuracies, participants were separated into high- and low-deceptiveness groups. These two groups then themselves took part in a video-based test. Results revealed that the skilled deceivers had a significant advantage in their ability to better anticipate the action outcomes of highly deceptive actions. The skilled deceivers’ sensitivity to discriminate deceptive from non-deceptive actions was significantly better than that of less-skilled deceivers when viewing the most-deceptive actor. Moreover, the skilled perceivers performed actions that appeared to be better disguised than those of the less-skilled perceivers. These findings suggest that, consistent with common-coding theory, the perception of deceptive and non-deceptive actions is associated with the capability to produce deceptive actions and vice versa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103073
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalHuman Movement Science
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


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