Emotions give clues to behavior in baseball

‘If we read others’ emotions well, we will be better able to anticipate their behavior’.

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June 19, 2016 00:00
Baseball

Baseball practice. (photo credit: MARGO SUGARMAN)

 
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‘Reading the emotions of opponents in a baseball game can help players anticipate their behavior and adapt their own behavior to improve their game,” according to University of Haifa and University of Amsterdam researchers.

The expression of emotions serves as a source of information and provides clues about what is likely to happen in social situations in general, and in baseball in particular, according to the joint study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology.

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“Other peoples’ emotions provide information. The expression of emotions can mark for us what the person is thinking and what they are about to do. If we read others’ emotions well, we will be better able to anticipate their behavior and to adapt our behavior to that of others,” explains Dr. Arik Cheshin of the University of Haifa, who undertook the study.

Emotions influence the human environment. When people express emotions, others can identify how that person feels according to facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. “Past studies have proven the interpersonal impacts of emotions. An emotion can be contagious, pass from one person to another and therefore can influence group performance,” he said.

“An expression of anger during negotiations may be strategic, symbolizing threat and implying that the other side should move toward the angry person.”

In the current study, the researchers examined the interpersonal consequences of emotions in the context of baseball. Do the gaze and body language a second before the pitch influence the batter? “The players stand opposite each other in one of the... most famous duels in sport. The two sportsmen look each other in the eye; one makes a move, and the other responds to it. We wanted to see whether the expression of emotion offers a clue about this move – and we found that it does,” Cheshin said.

Three games that determined the World Series champion from two different seasons were chosen, and 92 instances were selected from these games in which it was possible to see the pitcher before the pitch. The clips were edited so that it was possible to see only the pitcher’s preparations before the pitch, and the picture was frozen once the ball left the pitcher’s hand. The video clip did not show the outcome of the game nor provide any additional information about it.



The length of each edited clip was approximately two seconds.

In the next stage, 213 participants were asked to evaluate the pitcher’s emotions. The participants reached agreement regarding three key emotions shown in the clips – anger, happiness, and worry.

The 30 clips with the highest level of agreement regarding the expressed emotions were chosen, and another group of 34 respondents was then asked to predict the outcome of the pitch concerning – speed, accuracy, level of difficulty – and whether or not the batter would attempt to hit the ball. None of the participants identified the baseball players shown in the clips, or the teams, so that the external influence on the participants was very limited.

The researchers found that the expression of emotions serves as a source of information and provides clues about what is about to happen in the baseball game, thus identifying an additional social situation in which emotions convey critical information that influences preparations and reactions. When the pitcher showed anger, it led to the prediction of faster and more difficult pitches. The expression of happiness led to predictions of more precise pitches and a higher probability that the batter would attempt to hit the ball. The expression of worry led to predictions of imprecise pitches and fewer attempts to hit the ball,” Cheshin noted.

The results were less unequivocal when the researchers examined whether emotions influenced the actual outcomes of the games and whether the subjects’ predictions came true. “In baseball, the distance between the pitcher and the batter is 18 meters. And we are dealing with an emotion that is expressed for just a few seconds, during a period of movement, with a cap covering part of the face and a large glove on one hand. So the conditions for identifying emotions are far from ideal. It’s reasonable to assume that the expression of emotions when people are closer together, without accessories or items concealing the face, will yield stronger findings,” he added.

Interestingly, the one result that was found to be related to actual outcomes was regarding the pitcher displaying happiness. It was found that the chances of the batter trying to attempt to hit the ball were greater when the pitcher was identified as happier. The researchers suggest that this is an important finding, since the expectation in baseball is that if the pitcher is happy just before and during pitching, he is liable to execute some kind of scheme or trick. “It is possible that the batter’s reaction is not conscious but evolutionary.

There is a lot of pressure and tumult around the batter, and accordingly the batter sees the pitcher’s expression of happiness as a positive sign that encourages him to try to hit the ball. Controlling the expression of emotions and the ability to read emotions in order to predict behavior can make the difference between a strike and a home run.”

EVOLUTION OF LARGE DINOSAURS EXPLAINED University of Liverpool scientists have developed computer models of the bodies of sauropod dinosaurs to examine the evolution of their body shape. Some of the more well-known sauropods include Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus dinosaurs, the largest land animals to have ever lived. They are renowned for their extremely long necks, long tails and four thick, pillar-like legs and small heads in relation to their body.

To date, however, there have been only limited attempts to examine how this unique bodyplan evolved and how it might be related to their gigantic body size. Dr. Karl Bates from the university’s musculoskeletal biology department used 3-D computer models reconstructing the bodies of sauropod dinosaurs to analyze how their size, shape and weight-distribution evolved over time.

Bates found evidence that changes in body shape coincided with major events in sauropod evolutionary history such as the rise of the titanosaurs. The early dinosaurs that sauropods evolved from were small and walked on two legs, with long tails, small chests and small forelimbs. The team estimates that this body shape concentrated their weight close to the hip joint, which would have helped them balance while walking on their hind legs.

As sauropods evolved, they gradually altered both their size and shape from this ancestral template, becoming not only significantly larger and heavier, but also gaining a proportionally larger chest, forelimbs and in particular a dramatically larger neck.

The team’s findings show that these changes altered sauropods’ weight distribution as they grew in size, gradually shifting from being tail-heavy, two-legged animals to being front-heavy, fourlegged animals, such as the large, fully quadrupedal Jurassic sauropods Diplodocus and Apatosaurus.

The team found that these linked trends in size, body shape and weight distribution did not end with the evolution of fully quadrupedal sauropods. In the Cretaceous period - the last of the three ages of the dinosaurs - many earlier sauropod groups dwindled.

In their place, a new and extremely large type of sauropod known as titanosaurs evolved, including the truly massive Argentinosaurus and Dreadnoughtus, among the largest known animals ever to have lived.

The team’s computer models suggest that in addition to their size, the titanosaurs evolved the most extreme ‘front heavy’ body shape of all sauropods, as a result of their extremely long necks.

“As a result of devising these models we were able to ascertain that the relative size of sauropods’ necks increased gradually over time, leading to animals that were increasingly more front-heavy relative to their ancestors,” Bates said.

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