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Predicting free throw success

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2008

Basketball players are more skilled than even keen observers of the game (sportswriters and coaches) when predicting whether a shot will go in the basket or not.

Not surprisingly, the players were significantly better at predicting whether or not the shot would go in. While they got it right more than two-thirds of the time, the non-playing experts (i.e., the coaches and writers) only got it right 44 percent of the time.

It’s thought that the brains of the players act as though they are actually taking the shot.

In other words, when professional basketball players watch another player take a shot, mirror neurons in their pre-motor areas might light up as if they were taking the same shot. This automatic empathy allows them to predict where the ball will end up before the ball is even in the air.
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