Pressure and the ability to randomize decision-making: The case of the pickoff play in Major League Baseball
In mixed strategy games, the ability to randomize decisions is a critical strategic necessity, yet studies show that such rational behavior is sometimes elusive. This paper examines mixed strategy play in a natural setting, by looking at a pitcher’s decision to throw the ball to home plate or to throw it to first base in a pickoff play. In the absence of significant pressure, we find that pitchers can effectively randomize their sequence of choices to remain unpredictable, as mixed strategy Nash equilibriums require. However, in the face of pressure, some pitchers are less able to randomize their choices. Our paper is the first empirical study in the English language literature to find that decision makers are unable to randomize their strategic decisions when they face an increased cognitive load due to pressure.
KeywordsPressure Mixed strategy
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