The new spring fever

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

It’s not enough to make pitch­ing coaches call the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, but cur­rent brain re­search ap­pears to prove the old base­ball be­lief that hit­ting ac­tu­ally is con­ta­gious. And just in time for spring train­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis posted on the web­site Bleacher Re­port, ma­jor league bat­ting av­er­ages for hit­ters com­ing to home plate fol­low­ing hits by the two bat­ters be­fore him are 50 to 70 points higher than for bat­ters com- ing to the plate af­ter his teammates have made two con­sec­u­tive outs.

Cit­ing stud­ies by a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Chicago and re­searchers in the United King­dom at Ban­gor Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, the Bleacher Re­port says the an­swer for this lies in parts of the brain’s learn­ing sys­tems, which are be­ing called “mir­ror neu­rons.” (Although Out­liers does feel com­pelled to ask: What do the Brits know about base­ball?!)

In one ex­per­i­ment, bat­ters hit sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter af­ter watch­ing sim­u­la­tions of other bat­ters get­ting hits—but there were two catches: The more ex­pe­ri­enced bat­ters showed more im­prove­ment than less ex­pe­ri­enced bat­ters, and the “mir­ror” ef­fect wore off the more time there was be­tween watch­ing and hit­ting.

This could be bad news for those who al­ready think base­ball is too slow, as it could mean the best way to stop the spread of con­ta­gious hit­ting is a long, tur­tle-paced visit to the pitch­ing mound by a coach or catcher. They might even want to wash their hands first.

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Look out! This could be con­ta­gious.

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