Study: Using cognitive tests to find elite athletes

That's why scouts and coaches should rely on cognitive testing to find elite athletes.

What does it take to achieve outstanding athletic performance? In addition to physical performance, motor skills, perception and cognitive functions are also of great importance. The testing of physical abilities is obvious, which is why tests in this regard are already well established. To complement this, an area of research has developed in recent years that focuses on cognitive functions.

A recent meta-analytic review of sport-psychological studies looked at studies that used basic cognitive tests to examine differences in cognitive performance among athletes. The review found superior cognitive functions in elite athletes compared to non-elite athletes. Looking at different definitions researchers use, the authors conclude that an elite definition (the highest achievers in their respective sports) should be used for further research into cognitive functions of athletes, rather than an expert definition (defined by a certain number of hours of training). The results of the study suggest that the use of tests measuring basic cognitive abilities in scouting of talents can be beneficial.

Another advantage when measuring the cognitive abilities of professional athletes is the correct context in which the test results are placed. With exclusive norm samples you have the possibility to compare professional athletes with other professional athletes and thus get even more meaningful test evaluations and another instrument to answer your question.

Applied Cognitive Psychology


Scharfen, H‐E, Memmert, D. Measurement of cognitive functions in experts and elite athletes: A meta‐analytic review. Appl Cognit Psychol. 2019; 33: 843– 860.