Nav: Home

March Madness mentality: Faced with chance to win, most coaches go for tie

February 13, 2018

ITHACA, N.Y. - Say you're the coach of a basketball team that's trailing by two points in the dying seconds of a game. Your team has the ball and you call a timeout to set up a play.

Or imagine your football team has just scored a touchdown with three seconds to play to pull to within one point. Instead of immediately sending out the placekicker for the point-after, you call your final timeout to discuss your next move.

In both cases, there are options that will either win the game or tie the score and send the game into overtime. A made three-point shot to beat the buzzer will send your team joyously into the locker room; a successful two-point conversion will do the same for your football team.

Of course, if you choose the option that could potentially win the game without overtime, the other side of that coin is sudden defeat. As it turns out, the specter of losing on the spot - and the blowback a losing coach might face in that situation - is enough to lead most to take their chances in overtime.

The willingness to take that chance is called "sudden-death aversion" (SDA), and it's the topic of a new study co-authored by Tom Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University. "Sudden-Death Aversion: Avoiding Superior Options Because They Feel Riskier" was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; the authors also wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times.

The authors argue that the phenomenon of SDA reflects a common bias, not limited to sports, that can lead to less than optimal decision-making: When faced with a choice between a "fast" option that offers a greater chance of ultimate victory but also a significant chance of immediate defeat, and a "slow" option with both a lower chance of winning and a lesser chance of immediate defeat, people often opt for the "slow" option because of their aversion to sudden death.

But in so doing, the authors state, they also lower their chances of ultimate success. Gilovich, a longtime fan of the Green Bay Packers, knows this all too well: The paper opens with the story of the Packers' overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the 2016 National Football League playoffs, in which the Packers scored on the final play of regulation time, opted to kick the point-after to send the game to overtime, and promptly lost.

SDA is tied to another phenomenon, myopic loss aversion - too much focus on the potential for sudden loss while giving too little weight to the ultimate objective. It's the coach focusing on the agony of a failed two-point conversion, even though statistically, the authors contend, the chances of winning are better with the riskier two-point try.

The researchers mined all sorts of data, crunched numbers and came to this conclusion: Even when a "fast" strategy has better odds of success, people prefer a slower alternative that minimizes the chance of immediate defeat.

"SDA occurs," they wrote, "because people narrowly focus on the possibility of immediate defeat and believe immediate defeat is especially likely when other 'safer' strategies are available. We suggest that ... an aversion to sudden death can lead you to feel that a strategy with better odds is riskier, and thus give rise to suboptimal decision-making across a host of important contexts."
-end-
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University

Related Lead Articles:

Stroke patients take the lead in their rehabilitation
EPFL spin-off Intento has developed a patient-controlled electrical-stimulation device that helps stroke victims regain mobility in paralyzed arms.
Preventing lead spread
While lead pipes were banned decades ago, they still supply millions of American households with water each day.
Evidence lacking to support 'lead diet'
Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, UB researcher says public health experts need to be more up front with parents in explaining that CDC dietary recommendations may not help children who have been exposed to lead.
New drug lead identified in fight against TB
Antibacterial compounds found in soil could spell the beginnings of a new, much-needed treatment for tuberculosis, new research led by the University of Sydney has found. tuberculosis (TB) causes more deaths than any other infectious disease including HIV/AIDs.
Lead dressed like gold
Princeton researchers have taken a different approach to alchemists' ancient goal to transmute elements by making one material behave that another.
Iron supplements in the fight against lead
Targeted iron supplements in biscuits can achieve a striking reduction in the level of lead in children's blood in regions with high exposure to this toxic heavy metal.
A more accurate sensor for lead paint
A new molecular gel recipe developed at the University of Michigan is at the core of a prototype for a more accurate lead paint test.
Using urban pigeons to monitor lead pollution
Tom Lehrer sang about poisoning them, but those pigeons in the park might be a good way to detect lead and other toxic compounds in cities.
Looking beyond conventional networks can lead to better predictions
New research from a team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Nitesh Chawla, Frank M.
What can we expect next in the long history of lead poisoning in the US?
While state and federal officials continue to criticize each other for failing to guarantee safe drinking water, the question of exactly who is responsible for crises like in Flint, Michigan, lies at the root of the problem.

Related Lead Reading:

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
by Brené Brown (Author)

How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority
by Clay Scroggins (Author), Andy Stanley (Foreword)

12-Lead ECG: The Art of Interpretation (Garcia, Introduction to 12-Lead ECG)
by Tomas B. Garcia (Author)

Lead Generate: 61 Days to Double Your Pay
by Scott Groves (Author)

12-Lead ECG for Acute and Critical Care Providers
by Bob Page (Author)

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)
by Jocko Willink (Author), Leif Babin (Author)

Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?
by Baruti K. Kafele (Author)

Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff
by Shelley Burgess (Author), Beth Houf (Author)

ALL RHODES LEAD TO MURDER!: A 5-Volume Alton Rhode Mystery Omnibus
by St. Austin's Press

Lead . . . for God's Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership
by Todd Gongwer (Author), Urban Meyer (Foreword)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Circular
We're told if the economy is growing, and if we keep producing, that's a good thing. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers explore circular systems that regenerate and re-use what we already have. Guests include economist Kate Raworth, environmental activist Tristram Stuart, landscape architect Kate Orff, entrepreneur David Katz, and graphic designer Jessi Arrington.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#504 The Art of Logic
How can mathematics help us have better arguments? This week we spend the hour with "The Art of Logic in an Illogical World" author, mathematician Eugenia Cheng, as she makes her case that the logic of mathematics can combine with emotional resonance to allow us to have better debates and arguments. Along the way we learn a lot about rigorous logic using arguments you're probably having every day, while also learning a lot about our own underlying beliefs and assumptions.