Biology Faculty Articles


Winner and Loser Effects in Collegiate Baseball and Softball Doubleheaders

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Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology


Stress, Sport psychology, Game theory, Dominance, Winner effect, Loser effect




Past experiences have a considerable impact on the success of future interactions across the animal kingdom. Known as winner and loser effects, victors of prior contests tend to have an increased chance of future success while losers are likely to experience additional failure. These effects are in part due to differential endocrine responses among competitors following initial bouts, with winners benefiting from subsequent increases in testosterone (T) and losers being disadvantaged by reductions in T and heightened stress hormones. Now well documented across a range of human competitions, sporting events provide an ideal setting to explore this biological phenomenon. This study uses the perspective of winner and loser effects to study the pattern of outcomes observed in consecutive baseball and softball games played in the same day (i.e., doubleheaders) at the collegiate level. Using archival data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), we show that the distribution of winning and losing within these contests is not random. Consistent with a previous report on Major League Baseball (MLB), collegiate baseball and softball doubleheaders are more likely to be swept (i.e., one team winning both games) than split (i.e., each team winning and losing once), and the margin of victory in the first game was positive predictor of this outcome. While there were no differences between the strength of these effects between baseball and softball, both collegiate sports resulted in greater proportion of sweeps than in MLB. A residency effect was also observed, whereby victors of sweeps were more often the home team. This home field advantage was stronger for collegiate baseball compared to softball and the MLB. This report adds to a large comparative literature on winner and loser effects, and provides insight into the dynamics that modulate human performance in high-level athletic competition.





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