R U Vivid? Social Science on the Court
Sub-Perfect Game: Profitable Biases of NBA Referees
Joseph Price, Marc Remer & Daniel Stone, BYU Working Paper, June 2009
Abstract: This paper empirically investigates three hypotheses of inconsistent rule enforcement by National Basketball Association (NBA) referees. Using a sample of 28,388 quarter-level observations from six seasons, we find that NBA referees make calls that favor home teams, teams losing during games, and teams losing in playoff series. All of these biases are likely profitable to the league. We identify these effects as caused by referee bias, as opposed to player behavior, by using play-by-play data that allow us to analyze turnovers referees have relatively high and low discretion over separately. We also find that the biases do not increase in situations where their direct financial benefit to the league would be greater, and conclude that the biases are likely of an implicit nature.
Money and fame: Vividness effects in the National Basketball Association
Long Wang, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, January 2009, Pages 20-44
In his widely reprinted paper On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B, Kerr argued that vividness was one of the major reasons for distortedrewards. Using both archival and survey data, the present paper directly tests Kerr's proposal by investigating whether, how, and why highly visible behaviors are over-rewarded and less visible, but similarly (or more) important behaviors are under-rewarded. The National Basketball Association (NBA) was chosen as the domain of this study because scoring is particularly vivid, even though both non-scoring and scoring performances are critical for winning games. Findings from four studies demonstrated that the scoring performance of NBA players was weighed more heavily than their non-scoring performance. Scorers were rewarded with higher salaries and received more support in the NBA All-Star balloting than defenders, even though they might not necessarily make more contribution than their teammates. This pattern of findings suggests that the vividness effect may lead to pronounced differences in people's judgments, especially when they face abundant real-world information with similar validity.
A test of the widespread-point-shaving theory
Richard Borghesi & William Dare, Finance Research Letters, forthcoming
Abstract: We test whether corruption is widespread in NCAA basketball by examining scoring patterns in games involving suspected point shavers. If conspiracy occurs frequently, then we should find that strong favorites score fewer points and/or allow more points than expected. However, findings reveal that strong favorites, previously believed to be the most likely candidates to engage in point shaving, may instead be the least likely. We propose that a shift in coaching strategy late in blowout games explains the anomalous bet outcome distribution patterns previously identified in the NCAA basketball betting market.
(Nod to Kevin L, who is definitely vivid)