Sequential Effects in Elite Basketball Referees’ Foul Decisions: An Experimental Study on the Concept of Game Management

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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Ralf BrandUniversity of Stuttgart

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Gerhard SchmidtGerman Sport University Cologne

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Yvonne SchneelochGerman Sport University Cologne

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In a study on penalty decisions in soccer, Plessner and Betsch (2001) refer to a social cognition framework and demonstrate that referees’ initial decisions exert an undesirable impact on later decisions. Mascarenhas, Collins, and Mortimer (2002) criticize this work for an error in the attribution of its findings. In their view, the referees’ efforts to manage games by permanently adjusting decisions to the actual flow of a game have been underestimated. In the present experiment, 113 elite (i.e., first and second league) basketball referees made decisions on videotaped contact situations. These were presented either in their original game sequence or as random successions of individual scenes. Results showed that referees in the condition with the removed sequential context awarded more rigorous sanctions than their colleagues. Findings are interpreted as an instance of empirical evidence for what Mascarenhas et al. (2002) have described as game management. It is argued that the idea of game management should be modeled and further explored within the theoretical concept of social information processing.

Dept. of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Stuttgart, Allmandring 28, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany

Dept. of European Sport Development and Leisure Studies, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.

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