Contextual influences on baseball ball-strike decisions in umpires, players, and controls Academic Article uri icon


  • Baseball umpires, players, and control participants with no baseball experience were asked to call balls and strikes for video clips. In a basic judgement task, umpires and players were significantly better at calling pitches than controls. In a direct information task, borderline pitches were presented following clips of definite balls and definite strikes. Participants called target pitches closer to the strike end of the scale when viewed after definite balls than when they followed definite strikes. Similarly, when borderline pitches were shown in different pitch counts, participants called pitches more towards the strike end of the scale when there were three balls in the count (3-0, 3-2). These findings indicate that the standard for evaluation changes based on the context in which stimuli are processed. Moreover, the strength of the contextual factors is illustrated in that the effects were shown in observers with and without experience in the task. Overall, however, umpires had a greater tendency to call strikes, indicating that they may use a norm of "hastening the game".

publication date

  • May 2008