Contextual Influences on Neural Activity to Pitches and Feedback: Psychology and Performance at the Plate

Research output: Conference PosterPoster


Recently, researchers have expanded their interests into hitters’ neural activity. Studies have examined neural activity both during pitches and in response to performance feedback between pitches. This research provides valuable insights into hitters’ psychology and behavior, including their expectations, attentional focus and control, and ability to learn and correct decisions. The current study expands on this foundational research to examine contextual influences on these measures. Two groups of collegiate baseball players completed a computerized video task assessing whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes. Players were given umpire feedback on the accuracy of their choice following each pitch and their neural activity was recorded throughout the task. One group of players (low-pressure) was just participating in the research on a voluntary basis. The other group of players (high-pressure) knew that all of their study data, including measures of their neural activity and task performance, would be given to their coaches, increasing their stress and pressure to perform on the task. Results showed that the high-pressure group responded less accurately and more quickly than the low-pressure group, indicating hurried responses. Further, high-pressure hitters showed decreased proactive control compared to low-pressure hitters. Additionally, significant relationships were present between low-pressure hitters’ neural activity to feedback and their performance in the task. These relationships were not present in the high-pressure hitters. This finding suggests that low-pressure hitters were better able to associate information received in their feedback to their processing and performance in the task. The combined results indicate that contexts surrounding performance not only influence behavior, but also influence patterns of neural activity to pitches and feedback. This neural activity indexes many psychological processes that underlie task performance as well as self-regulatory learning and decision-making efforts to improve performance. Further, these findings show that neural activity can be used to objectively measure a player’s sensitivities to contextual influences (pressure, stress, anxiety, etc.) that are known to impact on-field performance, but are often difficult to monitor or uncover as they occur during performance. Implications and uses for this research include assisting in player evaluations and player development processes. When combined with advanced analytic data as well as physiological data, this new level of psychological data and measurement could provide new insights into performance modeling and player development protocols. 
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Mar 2021
EventSABR Analytics Conference -
Duration: Mar 1 2021 → …


ConferenceSABR Analytics Conference
Period3/1/21 → …


  • Psychology

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