Perceived Ball Size Correlates with Batting Average

Melon or pea approaching? It
may predict strike or home-run
© Hemera

Athletes often say that when they are playing well – shooting hoops, hitting baseballs, catching passes – the ball appears bigger. Likewise, they say that when they are in a slump the ball appears smaller. When Mickey Mantle hit a 565-foot home run he said, “I just saw the ball as big as a grapefruit.” But Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals said during a slump that he was “swinging at aspirins.”

The study by University of Virginia psychologists documents that when the players were hitting well they clearly perceived the ball to be bigger. And when they were hitting less well, they perceived the ball to be smaller. The interactions between mind and body – perception and action – may be as interlinked as athletes believe them to be, according to Jessica K. Witt, a cognitive psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia. Witt is interested in understanding if there is a feedback loop between perception and performance. “It’s clear that the way we see the world affects the way we perform in it,” she said. “I’m trying to get a glimpse into the role perception plays in streaks and slumps.”

Witt and her colleagues conducted their experiment at several softball fields in Charlottesville, Va., and asked players who had finished playing for the day to look at eight different-sized circles on a board and pick the one that best represented the size of the softball they had been trying to hit. They also checked the hitting percentage of the players for that day. They found that the players who were hitting well were picking the larger circles, and the players who were batting .500 or above – those hitting safely at least half the time – were picking the largest-size circle.

Witt says such studies have implication in all areas of life – job performance, relationships, abilities and disabilities. “Perspective and perception play a big role in what we do and how well we do it,” she said.; Source: University of Virginia