Cognition and action: an ecological perspective in sport


  • Gonçalo Figueiredo Dias Faculdade de Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física – Universidade de Coimbra (FCDEF.UC), Portugal.
  • Pedro Cabral Mendes Faculdade de Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física – Universidade de Coimbra (FCDEF.UC), Portugal.
  • João Coelho Santos Faculdade de Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física – Universidade de Coimbra (FCDEF.UC), Portugal.
  • José Miguel Gama Faculdade de Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física – Universidade de Coimbra (FCDEF.UC), Portugal.
  • Rui Sousa Mendes Escola Superior de Educação. Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra.
  • Ruperto Menayo Antúnez Universidad Católica San Antonio. Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte. Departamento de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte, Murcia, España.
  • Juan Pedro Fuentes Garcia Facultad de Ciencias del Deporte. Universidad de Extremadura, Cáceres, España.


The ecological approach that has come to be used in recent years to frame the learning and performance of sports skills, contrasts with the explanatory models of motor control that traditionally attach great importance to the mental representations of movement. In this sense, this work frames the ecological vision of cognition in sport in a comprehensive perspective, describing the athlete as a whole and not just what is happening inside his "head". We conclude that the emergent action in sports context results primarily from the interaction that the athlete establishes with the environment, therefore it is not necessary to use cognitive processes designed to succeed in the task. In this context, we propose to coaches that they should explore the functional aspects that underlie the manipulation of individual, environmental and task constraints, thus allowing their athletes to autonomously discover motor solutions and find relevant information-action couplings by themselves.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Gonçalo Figueiredo Dias, Faculdade de Ciências do Desporto e Educação Física – Universidade de Coimbra (FCDEF.UC), Portugal.

Motor Control


Adams, J.A. (1971). A closed-loop theory of motor learning. Journal of Motor Behaviour, 3, 2, 111-150.

Araújo, D. (2006). Tomada de decisão no desporto. Lisboa: Edições FMH.

Araújo, D. (2010). A dinâmica ecológica das decisões colectivas. In P. Passos (Ed.), Rugby (pp. 37-44). Cruz Quebrada: FMH edições.

Araújo, D. y Carvalho, J. (2007). Tomada de decisão no ténis. In P. Pezarat-Correia y C. Coutinho (Ed.), Investigação e Ténis (pp. 85-102). Lisboa: Edições FMH.

Araújo, D. y Davids, K. (2009). Ecological approaches to cognition and action in sport and exercise: Ask not only what you do, but where you do it. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 40, 5-37.

Araújo, D., Davids, K. y Hristovski, R. (2006). The ecological dynamics of decision making in sport. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 7, 653-676.

Araújo, D., Davids, K. y Passos, P. (2007). Ecological Validity, Representative Design and Correspondence between Experimental Task Constraints and Behavioral Settings. Ecological Psychology, 19, 69-78.

Araújo, D., Davids, K. y Serpa, S. (2005). An ecological approach to expertise effects in decision-making in a simulated sailing regatta. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 6, 671-692.

Araújo, D., Davids, K., Bennett, S., Button, C. y Chapman, G. (2004). Emergence of Sport Skills under Constraints. In A. M. Williams y N.J. Hodges (Ed.), Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice (pp. 409-433). London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Araújo, D., Davids, K., Chow, J. y Passos, P. (2009). The development of decision making skill in sport: an ecological dynamics perspective. In D. Araújo, H. Ripoll y M. Raab (Ed.), Perspectives on cognition and action in sport (pp. 157-170). New York: NOVA.

Costa, J., Garganta, J., Fonseca, A. y Botelho, M. (2002). Inteligência e conhecimento específico em jovens futebolistas de diferentes níveis competitivos. Revista Portuguesa de Ciências do Desporto, 2, 4, 7-20.

Crespo, M. (2009). Tennis coaching in the era of dynamic systems. Journal of Medicine and Science in Tennis, 14, 2, 20-25.

Davids, K., Araújo, D., Button, C. y Renshaw, I. (2007). Degenerate brains, indeterminate behavior and representative tasks: Implications for experimental design in sport psychology research. In G. Tenenbaum y B. Eklund (Ed.), Handbook of Sport Psychology (3rd ed, pp. 224-244). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.

Davids, K., Button, C. y Bennett, S. (2008). Dynamics of Skill acquisition. A constraints-led approach. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Davids, K., Savelsbergh, G.J.P. y Miyahara, M. (2010). Identifying constraints on children with movement difficulties. Implications for pedagogues and clinicians. In I. Renshaw K. Davids, y G.J.P. Savelsbergh (Ed.), Motor learning in Practice (pp. 173-186). London: Routledge.

Dias, G. y Mendes, R. (2010). Efeitos do contínuo de níveis de interferência contextual na aprendizagem do “putt” do golfe. Revista Brasileira de Educação Física e Esporte, 24, 4, 545-553.

Dias, G., Figueiredo, C., Couceiro, M., Luz, M. y Mendes, R. (2011). Análise Cinemática do Putt em Jogadores Inexperientes. In L. Roseiro, A. Neto (Ed.), Actas do Congresso. 4.º Congresso Nacional de Biomecânica (pp.49-52). Quinta das lágrimas: Coimbra.

Dias, G., Mendes, R., Couceiro, M.S., Figueiredo, C.M. y J. Luz, J.M. (2013). “On a Ball’s Trajectory Model for Putting's Evaluation”, Computational Intelligence and Decision Making - Trends and Applications, From Intelligent Systems, Control and Automation: Science and Engineering Bookseries, Springer Verlag, 61, pp. 81-88.

Elliott, B., Reid, M. y Crespo, M. (2009). Technique development in tennis stroke production. London: International Tennis Federation.

Fajen, B.R., Riley, M.A. y Turvey, M.T. (2009). Information, afforfances, and the control of action in sport. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 40, 1, 79-107.

Garganta, J. y Silva, P. C. (2000). O jogo de futebol: entre o caos e a regra. Horizonte, 91, 5-8.

Gibson, J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Gibson, J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hammond, K. y Stewart, T. (2001). The essential Brunswik: Beginnings, explications, Applications. New York: Oxford University Press.

Manzanares, A., Menayo, R., Segado, F., Salmerón, D. y Cano, J.A. (2013). A probabilistic model for visual research behavior applied to virtual sailing. European Journal of Sports Sciences (en prensa).

Manzanares, A., Segado, F. y Menayo, R. (2012). Factores determinantes del rendimiento en vela deportiva: revisión de la literatura. Cultura, Ciencia y Deporte, 20, 7, 125-134.

Menayo, R., Moreno, F.J., Fuentes, J.P., Reina, R. y Damas, J.S. (2012). Relationship between motor variability, accuracy, and ball speed in the tennis serve. Journal of Human Kinetics, 33, 45-53.

Mendes, P.C., Dias, G., Mendes, R., Martins, F.M.L., Couceiro, M.S. y Araújo, D. (2012). The effect of artificial side wind on the serve of competitive tennis players. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 12, 3, 546-562.

Mendes, P.C., Fuentes, J.P., Mendes, R., Martins, F.M.L., Clemente, F. y Couceiro, M.S. (2013). The variability of the serve toss in tennis under the influence of artificial crosswind. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12, 309-315.

Mendes, P.C., Mendes, R., Fuentes, J.P., Campos, F., Menayo, R. y Araújo, D. (2011) Factores de rendimento no primeiro serviço em tenistas de competição. Revista da Educação Física, 22, 3, 315-326.

Moreno, F.J., Luis, V., Salgado, F., García, J.A. y Reina, R. (2005). Visual behavior and perception of trajectories of moving objects with visual occlusion. Perceptual and Motor Skill, 101, 13-20.

Newell, K. M. (1986). Constraints on the Development of Coordination. In M. Wade y H.T.A. Whiting (Ed.), Motor Development in Children: Aspects of Coordination and Control (pp. 341-360).Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.

Oliveira, F. y Araújo, D. (2005). Tomada de Decisão em Orientação. In D. Araújo (Ed.), O contexto da decisão: a acção táctica no desporto (pp. 285-303). Lisboa: Edições Visão e Contextos.

Passos, P., Araújo, D., Davids, K., Gouveia, L. F., Milho, J. y Serpa, S. (2008). Information-governing dynamics of attacker defender interactions in youth rugby union. Journal of Sport Sciences, 26, 13, 1421-1429.

Pelz, D. (2000). Putting Bible: The complete guide to mastering the green. New York: Publication Doubleday.

Real Federación Española de Tenis. (2003). Profesor Nacional de Tenis – Sistemas de entrenamiento. Escuela Nacional de Maestría de Tenis.

Reid, M., Whiteside, D. y Elliott, B. (2010). Effect of skill decomposition on racket and ball kinematics of the elite junior tennis serve. Sports Biomechanics, 9, 4, 296-303.

Reina, R., Moreno, F.J. y Sanz, D. (2007). Visual Behavior and motor responses of novice and experienced wheelchair tennis players relative to the service return. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 24, 254-271.

Rocha, L., Araújo, D. y Fernandes, O. (2005). A dinâmica da tomada de decisão na largada em regatas à Vela. In D. Araújo (Ed.), O contexto da decisão: a acção táctica no desporto (pp. 313-339). Lisboa: Edições Visão e Contextos.

Schmidt, R.A. (1975). A schema theory of discrete motor skill learning. Psychological Review, 82, 4, 225-260.

Shaw, R. (2001). Processes, acts, and experiences: Three stances on the problem of intentionality. Ecological Psychology, 13, 4, 275- 314.

Stepp, N., Chemero, A. y Turvey, M. T. (2011). Philosophy for the rest of cognitive Science. Topics in Cognitive Science, 3, 425-437.

Turvey, M. T. y Shaw, R. E. (1995). Toward an ecological physics and a physical psychology. In R. L. Solso y D. W. Massaro (Ed.), The Science of the Mind: 2001 and Beyond pp. 144-169. New York: Oxford University Press.

Van Emmerik, R.E.A. y Van Wegen, E.E.H. (2000). On variability and stability in human movement. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 16, 394-406.

Warren, W. (2006). The dynamics of perception and action. Psychological Review, 113, 358-389.






Original Research

Most read articles by the same author(s)