"Quiet Eye" Can Help A Surgeon's Patients And Golf Game

Surgeons now have a really good excuse to be out on the golf course.  Researchers have shown that the same training technique that will improve their putting can also improve their operating skills.  Dr Samuel Vine and Dr Mark Wilson, from Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter, tested both elite golfers and surgical residents in two separate experiments using the gaze control technique known as the “Quiet Eye.”

First, they divided 22 elite golfers, (handicaps less than 6), into two groups after their baseline putting performance was measured.  The control group received no additional training while the experimental group participated in Quiet Eye (QE) training, a method first developed by Dr. Joan Vickers of the University of Calgary.  They were instructed to follow these steps:

1. Assume your stance and align the club so your gaze is on the back of the ball.
2. After setting up over the ball, fix your gaze on the hole. Fixations toward the hole should be made no more than 3 times.
3. The final fixation should be a QE on the back of the ball. The onset of the QE should occur before the stroke begins and last for 2 to 3 seconds.
4. No gaze should be directed to the clubhead during the backswing or foreswing.
5. The QE should remain on the green for 200 to 300 ms after the club contacts the ball.

While several earlier studies have shown the effectiveness of using QE in lab-based putting experiments, Vine and Wilson wanted to add two additional tests.  Would the golfers not only putt better in the lab, but also retain that performance under induced stress and in real world, golf course conditions?

The stress was added by telling the golfers that they were playing for a $50 prize as well as having their final scores posted at their home golf courses.  Even though the two groups showed no difference at the pre-training baseline testing, the QE group had significantly better putting scores than the control group in all three scenarios, including a decrease of two putts per round.

So, QE will help a surgeon on the green but what about in the operating room?  Knowing the positive results that athletes have seen, Vine and Wilson wondered if gaze control could help other professions, especially medicine.  Working in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong, the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and the Horizon training centre Torbay, the University of Exeter team brought thirty medical students together to find out....
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