We always knew Sheed was a cunning genius.
He needed to save his energy for the playoffs… so he didn’t break a sweat once during the regular season. He wanted a few open shots during the playoffs… so he bricked everything in sight all year long, knowing defenders would sag off him when it came to the postseason. He wanted to murder the officials after the brutal Game 7 loss… and then justified it by saying he was retiring and just wanted to say goodbye.
And the Ball Don’t Lie theory? The one Sheed screams out every time an injust call is made against him (and sometimes after pretty obvious fouls)? It actually holds true. (Free Darko)
The first entry comes courtesy of psychologists Graeme Haynes of University of Western Ontario and Thomas Gilovich (who did the original research on the “hot hand”) of Cornell University, who recently published a paper called “Ball Don’t Lie: How Inequity Aversion Can Undermine Performance” in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology*. The paper formally tests a cognitive explanation for the hypothesis frequently put forth by Rasheed Wallace that says that a player will often miss free throws after getting a foul that he does not deserve. The explanation that Haynes and Gilovich point to is a phenomenon known as inequity aversion, the idea that people prefer to avoid unfairness and injustice (even if sometimes it is not in their best interest to do so).
A study from earlier this year demonstrated inequity aversion by setting up a scenario in which two individuals were given unequal portions of money at the outset of the study ($50 versus $0). This created inequality such that one subject was a high-pay subject and one subject was the low-pay subject. Each subject then had their brains scanned while looking at slides that showed further monetary transfers either to oneself (self transfers) or to the other person in the study (other transfers). What happened was that high-pay subjects rated other transfers to be more positive whereas low-pay subjects rated self transfers to be more positive, both demonstrating that they enjoyed transfers that narrowed the money disparity between the two. Furthermore, brain activation mirrored these explicit evaluations–regions involved in the experience of reward corresponded to subjects evaluations of the transfers, suggesting that people felt that transfers that reduced inequality were more rewarding. The takeaway: People dislike inequality, even when they are in a position of higher gains.
Now back to hoops. Haynes and Gilovich examined whether inequality aversion plays out in the NBA by looking at whether players miss more free throws after an obviously incorrect call. The authors watched 102 games from the 2007-2008 season and noted any instance of an obviously incorrect call. This was always done BEFORE the fouled player went to the free throw line, and yielded a total of 77 identified obviously incorrect calls. Four additional coders examined the calls and showed substantial agreement about their incorrect nature. Then, the authors calculated free throw percentage for the first shot after these incorrect calls, which turned out to be a whoppingly low 53.2%, substantially lower than the league average for the season on first-shot free throws, 73.6% (the league average was 77.8% for second-shot free throws). This suggests inequity aversion–players felt significantly less comfortable making a free throw after receiving an unjust foul call.
See? Sheed don’t lie. It’s a shame he will probably never get to play after his theory has been proven true.