Unpredictable Grunting in Tennis is More Distracting


Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that grunting in tennis can hinder an opponent’s performance. Here we addressed the question of whether a grunt is solely a distraction, or if instead it masks important auditory information carried by the dynamic multisensory event of the ball striking the racquet. Videos of a professional tennis player were played in silence, or included a grunt either before, during, or after impact, with the task being to judge the direction of the shot as quickly and accurately as possible. No differences were observed between the sound conditions, indicating that the adverse effects of grunting may be related to general distraction. This was replicated when manipulating the frequency of the grunts to occur 75% of the time, with overall performance improving, suggesting that the predictability of grunts is important, with more sporadic grunting leading to diminished performance.

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