Video referee could find what’s not there

WE all saw it and we all know what we saw. However, witness testimony is not what we think it is, nor ever exactly what we thought it was.

Loftus and Palmer (Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction, 1974) discovered that eyewitness testimony can be corrupted by how the eyewitness is interviewed. In their experiment, participants were shown short films of traffic accidents and then asked, "About how fast were the cars going when they (contacted, bumped, hit, collided, or smashed) each other?"

Participants who were asked about how the cars "smashed" said that the cars were travelling faster than those who were asked how they "collided" or "contacted". After that, these participants were asked, "Did you see any broken glass? Yes or no?"

Participants who were asked how the cars "smashed" were much more likely to say that they had seen broken glass - but there was no broken glass.

Regarding rugby league video replays, playback speed can be compared to the verbs in Loftus and Palmer's questions such that as the playback slows, players seem faster and so much more forceful. For example, obstructions: did one player "crash" into another or did they "contact"? Seen in slow motion, obstructions look much more like smashes. Furthermore, when the referee refers a decision, the referee asks the video referee to look at or for something, whereupon the video referee could be corrupted into looking for something that isn't there.

Therefore, if in their referral the referee instead asks the video referee to review the previous play without mentioning why, then perhaps this can prevent a video referee looking at replays until they find something that looks somewhat like what they were asked to find.

Rather than that video referees watch any camera angle once and only once, at full speed, and then judge it on a sliding confidence scale within three seconds. Obstructions occur fast, fluidly, and always in a context.

Referees are being blinded when they are told what to watch out for and what they are wanting to find or when they see too much, too many times.


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