Posts Tagged ‘Athletics/Exercise’

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…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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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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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Muscle Memory, but Not the Kind You Think

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

The stereotypes of the “nerd” and the “dumb jock” are some of the most pervasive in the media. The nerd is so un-athletic he might hurt himself walking to class, and the jock spends more time in the gym than in the library. While these stereotypes may be well known, the importance of exercise and health has increased over the last decade. Not only does exercise improve short-term mental concentration and mood by the release of endorphins, it is also being studied for long-term benefits. Even mainstream media has commented on exercise benefits, for example in the movie legally blonde displayed in figure 1.

Quote from Legally Blonde (2001) movie

Figure 1. Quote from Legally Blonde (2001) movie

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Getting Old Doesn’t Need to be Scary!

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Do you worry about what will happen to your body as you get older? Do you envision your brain slowing down and your grandkids speaking realllyy slllowwlyyy so you can understand them?

Cognitive functioning—which includes attention (allotting mental resources to notice something), memory (the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information), and executive functioning (a broad term for the system that regulates many cognitive processes)—tends to decrease with age. However, one of the many benefits of exercise is that it has been shown to improve cognitive functioning. And for many older adults, general fitness as it relates to health is a primary concern. But some forms of exercise can be harmful or painful for older adults who have joint pain. So what kind of exercise and how much exercise should older adults get in order to stay physically and mentally healthy?

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What’s the number to 9-1-1? A study on inattentional blindness and how exercise helps.

November 21st, 2014 7 comments

Girl Falls in Mall Water Fountain While Texting:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 1.59.08 PM

([wtfhub], 2011)

Watch the video above.  Notice the woman falling flat on her face?  Psychologists refer to instances, such as this epic camera-caught face-plant, as results of inattentional blindness.  Inattentional blindness refers to an individual’s failure to notice unexpected objects or events when she is focusing her attention on something else (Kellog, 2007).  The widely accepted attenuation model of selective attention provides evidence for inattentional blindness.  According to the attenuation model of selective attention, a person who does not attend to an object in her visual field likely does not perceive that object due to an attenuation filter.  The attenuation filter functions to turn down the signal intensity from unattended stimuli in the environment while letting attended stimuli pass through it onto a perceptual channel, resulting in conscious awareness of the stimuli a person attends to (Kellog, 2007). In this video, the woman clearly was not paying attention to the fountain within her field of vision, so the information regarding the fountain in her sensory memory was tuned out via the attenuation filter, and the presence of the fountain never reached her conscious awareness.

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Categories: Attention Tags:

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:

The Secret Behind Steve Jobs’ “Walking Meetings”

November 18th, 2014 3 comments

Have you ever taken part in a “walking meeting”? People who work closely with Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, arguably two of the most successful and innovative people of our time, have probably experienced these on a regular basis. Both of these influential people are known for frequently having important business meetings while walking outside. They certainly have enough building space to hold a meeting inside, so why do they do this? Have they noticed something about walking that helps them think differently than if they were sitting in a meeting room? Walking is known to be beneficial for our physical health, but what about its effect on our cognitive functioning?

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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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