Posts Tagged ‘Athletics’

Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot – or not?

April 26th, 2018 1 comment

Picture this: you’re watching your favorite professional basketball team on television
when suddenly their best player gets fouled again—that’s already the sixth time tonight, and he
hasn’t missed a free throw yet! You watch eagerly as he steps to the free throw line for the first
of two shots. He bounces the ball, once, twice, stares down the rim, and shoots—swish—a
perfect shot once again. The referee hands him the ball for his second and final shot while you
think to yourself, “There is no way he will miss this shot, he’s hot and having a great night. He
hasn’t missed a single free throw all night, and he just made the first shot, so this one has to go
in.” But your confidence is shattered when the ball leaves his hands and soars just a bit too far,
bricking off of the backboard

Nothing but air.

and into the hands of the other team. If this situation sounds
familiar to you, then you’ve fallen victim to what psychologists call the “Hot Hand Fallacy,” or
the erroneous belief that someone’s performance in a sporting event or similar life circumstance
is expected to occur in significant “streaks”—in other words, good outcomes are more likely to
occur in conjunction with other good outcomes, and, likewise, bad with bad.

Yes, that’s right, the erroneous belief, as there exists significant research that tells us that
the state of a player “being hot” is nothing more than a figment of our imagination. If you have
trouble believing this, then you’re not alone. Gilovich et al.’s extensive 1985 study found that
91% of college-aged basketball fans believed that one is more likely to make a shot after just
having made a basket as opposed to missing a basket. Furthermore, the participants, on average,
estimated a player was nearly 20% more likely to make a shot after having made one compared
to after having missed one (Gilovich, Tversky, & Vallone, 1985).

So, if this belief is so ingrained in people’s minds, how can it be wrong? Read more…

Have a Concussion? Let’s Make it Worse and Find Out.

November 24th, 2015 5 comments

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.43.12 PMThe world of sports is a dangerous place for athletes.  The speed and power of athletes can sometimes result in collisions and injuries that can leave athletes sidelined anywhere  from a few minutes to an entire season… or worse.  But, only the injuries that we can see on the outside are easy to diagnose and treat.  Injuries, with equal severity (if not more), happen frequently and can go unnoticed.  An athlete’s brain is at constant risk of injury during sports.  Even a small bumping of heads with another athlete can result in concussion.  These brain injuries can leave people with a loss of memory, dizziness, blurred vision, and sometimes completely knocked-out.  Diagnosing concussions can be tricky because athletes often do not show immediate or significant symptoms. According to Tracey Covassin, Bryan Crutcher, & Jessica Wallace (2013), the way athletic trainers and doctors assess whether or not an athlete is concussed or cleared for activity requires increasing concussive symptoms. So is there another way, or is the injured athlete’s depressing reality just a pro-longed road to recovery? 

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Categories: Attention, Memory Tags: ,

Does Self-Control Depletion Have A Negative Impact in Sports?

November 24th, 2015 3 comments

Have you ever been so angry and frustrated at something that you begin having irrational thoughts or actions? Say you stub your toe and begin screaming profanities at the bureau that you stubbed it on. In your normal state of mind, you would know that it’s ridiculous to be screaming at inanimate objects when the cause of your frustration is entirely on you. So why do these irrational thoughts or actions happen in the first place, and why does our self-control seem to disappear in these instances? Self-control depletion, or losing the ability to control oneself has been recently looked at in greater detail, and real world implications of self control depletion are being discovered. An area that self-control depletion can have a large effect is in sports competition. Anyone who has played competitive sports knows the feeling of being so frustrated with an aspect of the game that they no longer act as themselves, and rather act on frustration and anger. Whether it comes from a ref blowing an obvious call or an opposing player performing a blatant foul on you or one of your teammates, a normally rational and unaggressive player can lose their self-control quickly. A study in 2014 by Englert and Bertrams looked at self–control depletion, focusing their study on the effects that self-control depletion has in sports. Being able to have self-control is a very important part of most competitive sports. From flipping over a chess table because you are frustrated by your lack of strategy, to hitting an opposing football player with the truck-stick because they badmouthed your teammate on the previous play, self-control comes into play more often than not in competitive play. Understanding the effects of self-control depletion in sports may just give you the competitive edge.


Self-control can be defined as the process of voluntarily controlling an impulse or habitual action, such as choosing to eat an apple instead of a piece of cake when you are on a diet. Much like how attention is a limited resource, self-control is also limited in its capacity. In sports, attention is spread to many different things, and since it is a limited resource, it is difficult to pay attention to self-control while attending to so many other distractions. Attention has often been described as a “spotlight”, and you must move the spotlight around to focus your attention on different things. In sports, that spotlight is constantly moving around, trying to focus on the most important aspect of the game. Since you are trying to focus on so many different things, you are spending much less time focusing on your self-control, and allowing it to get out of hand when presented with situations requiring utmost self-control.

After a first act of self-control, the resource is depleted for a certain amount of time, and it is not replenished instantly (Baumeister et al., 1998). This time period where the resource has been depleted is called “ego depletion”, and further acts of self-control are temporarily impaired during this period. This study also aimed to look at how certain aspects of sporting competitions can actually deplete self-control strength. In order to do this, the experimenters relied on the effect of vicarious depletion. Vicarious depletion can be described as mentally reliving the actions of a person who had to exert self-control and having your own self-control depleted as well.

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A Sideline Story: The Effect a History of Concussions has on both Cognitive Ability and Injury Recovery Time In Collegiate Athletes

November 24th, 2015 1 comment

If you had asked the high school version of myself about some of the parents of my peers not allowing their children to play football because of the sports dangers, I would have laughed at the idea. To me this was the greatest game in the world, a game that teaches the values of hard work, perseverance, and a humbleness that is hard to learn other places in life. How can you simply tell someone who has dedicated countless hours and years to their craft that they can no longer do the thing they love the most? But the dreaded “C word” whispered in both high school and college locker rooms across the country is doing just that, as the length of recovery for athletes with a history of concussions is being questioned.

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Why Cristiano Ronaldo is Probably a Better Driver than You

November 18th, 2014 7 comments

Mens Semis - USA v BRAronaldo

“Attention is the holy grail, everything that you’re conscious of, everything you let in, everything you remember and you forget, depends on it.” David Strayer, a University of Utah researcher, made the importance of attention very clear in this quote from a 2010 New York Times article. However, attention is not static, it can be focused, divided, shifted, widened and narrowed. With a narrowing of attention, very apparent changes or entire objects (even gorillas) can be completely missed even if you are looking directly at it (don’t believe me? Watch this). There are many ways to narrow your attentional breadth, or the “spotlight” of your attention in which you can notice stimuli with high accuracy. But what about the possibility of having a larger attentional spotlight, to be able to be aware of what is happening in a larger spatial area?

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Categories: Attention Tags:

Can Variability In Concussion Testing Really Tell Us Something Important?

May 1st, 2014 No comments


In the past decade, the negative consequences of traumatic brain injuries, more commonly referred to as concussions, have become highly publicized. Once brushed off as an innocent hit to the head, concussions are now taken much more seriously. Although concussions can occur for many reasons, due to their frequency, sports related concussions have become the target of concern. It is estimated that among the 38 million children and adolescents and 170 million adults participate in athletic activities in the US, there are as many as 3.8 million mild traumatic brain injuries that occur each year. Many of these go untreated (Giza et al., 2013).

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Categories: Attention Tags: , ,

A Concussion may take you out of the game, but what does it mean for your working memory capacity?

May 1st, 2013 10 comments

In the world of athletics, there has been a significant increase of awareness and concern around concussions. With contact sports, athletes are vulnerable to sports-related concussions of varying degrees. Athletic trainers are very sensitive when it comes to diagnosing a concussion, given that any injury to the brain is substantial and should not be overlooked. As an athlete myself, I have witnessed many teammates experience concussions, who have not been able to participate in any sort of physical activity. If concussions have such an impact on an individual’s athletics, one may suspect that such repercussions extend to other aspects of an individual’s life. This article further investigates the impact of sports-related head contacts on working memory capacity.

Working Memory refers to a short-term store that is relevant to the performance of a cognitive task in an activated state. Working memory is crucial to overall cognitive ability and requires a level of attention that ensures memory will be maintained in spite of interference or distractions. Working memory becomes important for an athlete’s optimal performance and physical safety because he or she must focus his/her attention on the game and likewise, maintain task relevant information during distracting events that happen on the field.

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Categories: Memory Tags: ,

The Effects of Running a Marathon on Memory

April 29th, 2013 5 comments

nyc-marathonRegular exercise is known to have many advantages.  In addition to the obvious physical benefits such as reducing the risks of heart disease and obesity, it can also benefit the brain.  Regular aerobic exercise releases endorphins, a naturally occurring opiate, to improve an athlete’s mood.  It also increases cognitive function in healthy adults, including improved working memory and executive functioning (Guiney & Machado, 2013).   Marathon running, however, is above and beyond typical regular aerobic exercise; it is considered the ultimate test of fitness.   The marathon always concludes the Olympic games, seeming to symbolize the pinnacle of athleticism. But to complete a marathon, runners put their bodies through the ringer.  They run more mileage than the human body was probably ever designed to run, all in preparation for the 26.2-mile race.  Though regular exercise has positive effects on both the body and the mind, could running a marathon actually be too much exercise?  Beyond sore muscles, marathon runners often experience tendonitis, torn muscles and ligaments, sprains, stress fractures, shin splints, and other injuries.  But might there also be negative cognitive effects of running a marathon?

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