Major League Baseball has been trying something new in recent seasons: Immediate return of referee calls. After replay review, some false calls in the field can be invalidated. Baseball in its own way is an acknowledgment of what sports fans have always known – officials make mistakes.
The most notable manifestation of this trend is the common bad appeal and its accompanying, make-up appeal. When a referee makes a bad call, the only way they’re supposed to be able to restore balance in the game is to make an extra false call, but this time in favor of the offending team. For example, the referee might foul call a “kick” on a floor that was outside the strike area, only to make up for the foul later by calling a “ball” on the playing court that clearly caught the edge of the strike area.
The instant replay isn’t perfect and isn’t used in every situation, which leaves room for judges to make bad calls and makeup calls later. Other than sports, there are plenty of other ambiguous situations in everyday life where people try to make up for errors in judgment through make-up calls aimed at restoring balance.
Putting things right by making mistakes
Examining MLB match data from 2008-2014, we found that bad calls increase the likelihood of make-up calls. That is, when a referee makes an objectively wrong call, it increases the chances of subsequent calls in favor of the team that has been hurt.
For example, when bad calls were made against archers, umpires were more likely to strike. We also found that referees became less likely to hit a hitter if they made bad calls against their teammates.
But as the stakes increased—meaning the call was more important to the game’s overall score—make-up calls became less likely. The make-up calls seem intended to correct past mistakes and correct a certain level of unfairness, but not so much that it would have an impact on the team that actually won or lost.
Make-up calls in the psychology lab
To investigate whether this tendency Towards a makeup call that extends beyond Major League Baseball, we invited college volunteers to our lab. We paired them up and gave them a set of jars that each contained random things like screws, nails, etc.
One student was the decision maker and guessed whether the number of items in the jar was greater or less than 300. The second student was the judge and he evaluated the other student’s decision based on his or her own discretion. The decision maker received lottery tickets every time the judge sided with them, and the judges received lottery tickets when they were correct in their assessment of the decision maker.
When the judges received feedback that they had misjudged their assessment, they were more likely to make subsequent calls in favor of the decision makers. Just as we’ve seen in the major tournaments, as stakes increase – in this case, the odds of winning a raffle with each ticket awarded – make-up calls decrease. However, as the number of people affected by the bad call has increased, so has the potential for makeup calls.
We also identified the critical role guilt plays in makeup calls. Those who made a bad call reported that they felt more guilt in a survey and then sought to correct their mistake by issuing a make-up call. Hence those experiencing guilt are more likely to make makeup calls.
Bad calls are more dangerous
As when we focused on MLB referees, our lab study relied on a similar game context. To determine if what we saw translated into the real world, we Examination of the judgments of financial analysts. We’ve looked at their recommendations about which company stocks, in their judgment, should be bought or sold. And we took a look at their earnings forecasts that predict how they think about the performance of individual stocks.
When a company does worse than analysts expected, or if they miss earnings expectations, the company’s stock falls. In this way, analysts who are over-optimistic about the company and make inflated earnings expectations may inadvertently harm the company.
In response to a significant loss of earnings—meaning the company performed 50% or more worse than analysts expected—analysts could either devalue the company, triggering a rating downgrade, or double their optimism and offer an upgrade. Given the company’s severe underperformance, offering the upgrade would likely be an irrational option — but it could offset the damage done to the stock. Thus analysts’ forecasts and recommendations provide the perfect way for our research to capture the make-up calls.
We found that when analysts significantly overestimated a company’s earnings, analysts were 73% more likely to upgrade their recommendations. In other words, when the company performed significantly worse than the analyst expected, they were more likely to recommend buying the stock than selling it, even though a rating downgrade would make more sense in this scenario. Analysts were more likely to issue a make-up call by upgrading the stock, and issuing a buy recommendation that was very optimistic for a stock that underperformed expectations by at least 50%.
It’s not something people want to talk about
Finally, we wanted it Evaluate people’s daily experiences of make-up calls at work. How aware are people of bad phone calls and makeup calls, and how do they feel about these decisions when they happen at work?
We asked managers to recall a time when they made a bad decision or call. There were far fewer people who were willing to admit they had made a bad call, even when asked openly, than those who were willing to say they had made a decision. We weren’t surprised, because people generally prefer it Avoid admitting or discussing their mistakes.
It seems that this aversion has extended to makeup calls, too. Those who admitted to making a bad call were no more or less likely to admit that they had had a make-up call at all, even if they pleaded guilty to their mistake.
Most of our studies indicate that people often back off on makeup calls after a misjudgment. However, people get very little to say when asked about those experiences and tend not to stick to this kind of right procedure.