The application of naturalistic decision-making techniques to explore cue use in rugby league playmakers

David Johnston*, Ben W. Morrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Within the sport of rugby league, there exists a perceived shortage of talent in playmaking positions. In Australia, an academy dedicated to the development of playmaking skills has recently been established. Although the precise skills targeted by the academy for development are yet to be determined, decision making is presumed to be integral. The current research used the naturalistic decision-making paradigm to inform training initiatives by investigating the decision processes engaged by rugby league playmakers. The research explored whether players of varying ability could be differentiated in relation to a key decision process, cue use. Rugby league playmakers were interviewed using a novel variation of cognitive task analysis, which used both retrospective (i.e., recalled game) and prospective (i.e., unfamiliar rugby league scenario) means. The sample comprised 10 participants: six professional and four semiprofessional rugby league players. From a content analysis, a concept map, cognitive demands tables, and a critical cue inventory were produced. Results indicated that professional players demonstrated greater cue discrimination, assigned different meaning to the cues, and processed cues in a different manner compared with their semiprofessional counterparts. The results offer insights for future training applications in the domain and raise important questions regarding the utility of critical cue inventories in training.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-410
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • naturalistic decision making
  • cognitive task analysis
  • sport


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