1. Education
Jodi Beggs

When Economists Watch Basketball...

By May 30, 2012

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When normal people watch basketball, they wonder if their preferred team is going to win the big game. When economists (and other social scientists) watch basketball, they wonder whether conventional sports wisdom actually has empirical support. Take the "make-up call," for example- there is a widespread belief that a referee will either consciously or unconsciously make a foul call that balances out an earlier questionable foul call. As it turns out, the make-up call effect can be found in the game data.

Similarly, the notion of "the ball don't lie," coined by Rasheed Wallace, states that players subconsciously miss more free throws after a bad foul call. This phenomenon also turns out to be a real thing, since the psychology of inequity aversion kicks in and significantly lowers players' free throw percentages following questionable foul calls. There's even evidence that racism, either conscious or unconscious, is present among NBA referees.

Doesn't all of this make the game more interesting? Maybe it's just me.


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