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Math Shows Referee Bias?

Steffan Giessner and Niels Van Quaquebeke, German scientists, have shown that referees are biased in their calling FOUL.

Their data set included statistics from major Eurpoeam sports, especially seven soccer seasons (about 150,000 fouls). Some of their generalizations from the data:

  • Soccer's tall people tend to have more fouls called on them...on average, the players assessed fouls were about one-third of an inch taller than the "victims"
  • Given an interaction between a short player and a tall player, both fans and referees tend to anticipate that the tall player will foul the shorter player...when one player was taller by at least 3.9 inches, he was assessed the foul about 59% of the time.
  • If this same situation ends with the taller player lying on the ground, both fans and referees assume he has taken a dive
The researchers explain that "in evolutionary terms, we associate size with agression, dominance and power. Now we can show, via data, that this is still in our thinking--including a refree in soccer."

Source: New York Times, January 26, 2010, p. B14