IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Deception and decision making in professional basketball: Is it beneficial to flop?


  • Morgulev, Elia
  • Azar, Ofer H.
  • Lidor, Ronnie
  • Sabag, Eran
  • Bar-Eli, Michael


We examine the behavior of professional referees and players in the context of offensive fouls in basketball. Over 500 incidents that had the potential to meet the criteria of an offensive foul were recorded from the 2009/10 season of the Israeli Basketball Super League and were analyzed by basketball experts. Falling intentionally in order to improve the chances to get an offensive foul is a very common behavior of defenders (almost two thirds of the recorded falls). It seems to be helpful at first, increasing indeed the chances to get an offensive foul, but a more careful analysis shows that the entire impact of an intentional fall on the team seems to be negative. We suggest that both rational reasons and biased decision making lead players to frequently act against their team's interest by falling. Referees almost never call an offensive foul if the player remained on his feet, and are generally calling fewer fouls than the number judged by experts as appropriate. We explain the referees’ behavior both by using the representativeness heuristic and by examining closely the referees’ interests and observing that to some extent even their officiating mistakes may be rational.

Suggested Citation

  • Morgulev, Elia & Azar, Ofer H. & Lidor, Ronnie & Sabag, Eran & Bar-Eli, Michael, 2014. "Deception and decision making in professional basketball: Is it beneficial to flop?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 108-118.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:102:y:2014:i:c:p:108-118
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2014.03.022

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gächter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 159-181, Summer.
    2. Pascual-Ezama, David & Prelec, Drazen & Dunfield, Derek, 2013. "Motivation, money, prestige and cheats," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 367-373.
    3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Sanjiv Erat & Uri Gneezy, 2012. "White Lies," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(4), pages 723-733, April.
    5. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    6. Battigalli, Pierpaolo & Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2013. "Deception: The role of guilt," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 227-232.
    7. Dohmen, Thomas J., 2008. "Do professionals choke under pressure?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 636-653, March.
    8. Bar-Eli, Michael & Azar, Ofer H. & Ritov, Ilana & Keidar-Levin, Yael & Schein, Galit, 2007. "Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 606-621, October.
    9. Azar, Ofer H., 2004. "What sustains social norms and how they evolve?: The case of tipping," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 49-64, May.
    10. Johnson, Joseph G. & Raab, Markus, 2003. "Take The First: Option-generation and resulting choices," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 215-229, July.
    11. Martin G. Kocher & Marc V. Lenz & Matthias Sutter, 2012. "Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: New Evidence from Randomized Natural Experiments," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(8), pages 1585-1591, August.
    12. Alex Krumer & Tal Shavit & Mosi Rosenboim, 2011. "Why do professional athletes have different time preferences than non-athletes?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(6), pages 542-551, August.
    13. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
    14. Mark Walker & John Wooders, 2001. "Minimax Play at Wimbledon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1521-1538, December.
    15. Mark Duggan & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Winning Isn't Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1594-1605, December.
    16. P.-A. Chiappori, 2002. "Testing Mixed-Strategy Equilibria When Players Are Heterogeneous: The Case of Penalty Kicks in Soccer," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1138-1151, September.
    17. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2003. "Professionals Play Minimax," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 395-415.
    18. Azar, Ofer H. & Yosef, Shira & Bar-Eli, Michael, 2013. "Do customers return excessive change in a restaurant?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 219-226.
    19. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 251-278, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Jacek Rothert & Douglas N. VanDerwerken & Brice M. Nguelifack, 2016. "Does the threat of suspension curb dangerous behavior in soccer? A case study from the Premier League," Departmental Working Papers 52, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    2. Bernd Irlenbusch & Marie Claire Villeval, 2015. "Behavioral ethics: how psychology influenced economics and how economics might inform psychology?," Post-Print halshs-01159696, HAL.
    3. Craig A. Depken II & Peter A. Groothuis & Mark C. Strazicich, 2016. "The Rise and Fall of the Enforcer in the National Hockey League," Working Papers 16-12, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.

    More about this item


    Deception; Sports; Decision making; Basketball; Representativeness heuristic;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • L83 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Sports; Gambling; Restaurants; Recreation; Tourism


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:102:y:2014:i:c:p:108-118. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.