The psychophysics of homeplate umpire calls

Flannagan, K., Mills, B. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2024).  The psychophysics of homeplate umpire calls.  Scientific Reports, 14, 2735.

We analyze the visual perception task that home plate umpires (N = 121) perform calling balls and strikes (N = 3,001,019) in baseball games, focusing on the topics of perceptual learning and bias in decision-making. In the context of perceptual learning, our results show that monitoring, training, and feedback improve skill over time, and that this improvement is more pronounced for younger subjects. Despite these improvements in perceptual skill, various biases in the umpires’ decision-making persist over time. That learning and task performance improvement do not necessarily reduce existing biases provides new insight into behavioral training. We also aim to show how a methodology that combines theoretical and mathematical models of psychophysics with observational data can be a useful tool for learning about human behavior in real-world conditions. This approach can form a bridge between laboratory-based studies and applications to practical problems.

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