Pitching emotions: The interpersonal effects of emotions in professional baseball

Arik Cheshin, Marc W. Heerdink, Jolanda J. Kossakowski, Gerben A. Van Kleef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sports games are inherently emotional situations, but surprisingly little is known about the social consequences of these emotions. We examined the interpersonal effects of emotional expressions in professional baseball. Specifically, we investigated whether pitchers' facial displays influence how pitches are assessed and responded to. Using footage from the Major League Baseball World Series finals, we isolated incidents where the pitcher's face was visible before a pitch. A pre-study indicated that participants consistently perceived anger, happiness, and worry in pitchers' facial displays. An independent sample then predicted pitch characteristics and batter responses based on the same perceived emotional displays. Participants expected pitchers perceived as happy to throw more accurate balls, pitchers perceived as angry to throw faster and more difficult balls, and pitchers perceived as worried to throw slower and less accurate balls. Batters were expected to approach (swing) when faced with a pitcher perceived as happy and to avoid (no swing) when faced with a pitcher perceived as worried. Whereas previous research focused on using emotional expressions as information regarding past and current situations, our work suggests that people also use perceived emotional expressions to predict future behavior. Our results attest to the impact perceived emotional expressions can have on professional sports.

Original languageEnglish
Article number178
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Cheshin, Heerdink, Kossakowski and Van Kleef.


  • Anger
  • Competitive sports
  • Emotion
  • Happiness
  • Interpersonal effects of emotion
  • Social influence of emotion
  • Worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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