Richard Larrick has been bothered by something for two decades.
“Twenty years ago, I’d done a paper with some graduate students just showing that in hotter temperatures, pitchers are more likely to hit batters with pitches,” says Larrick, a professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Was it because they would sweat more, and the ball might get slippery and hard to control? Or was it something intentional?
“Laboratory research has shown that if you put people in a hotter room, they’re more likely to act aggressively toward someone else,” sometimes without even being aware of it, he says.
Because ballgames aren’t played in a lab, Larrick looked through 50 years of baseball statistics to see if he could see the effect of temperature on aggressive behavior.
“We can look at every game and every plate appearance, and just look at what the chances are of a batter being hit,” he says. As he reported in the journal Psychological Science, there was a definite pattern. Pitchers were more likely to hit a batter if earlier in the game, one of their teammates had been hit. But that’s not all.
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