NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Sticking with What (Barely) Worked

Lars Lefgren, Brennan Platt, Joseph Price

NBER Working Paper No. 17477
Issued in October 2011
NBER Program(s):   LS

Outcome bias occurs when an evaluator considers ex-post outcomes when judging whether a choice was correct, ex-ante. We formalize this cognitive bias in a simple model of distorted Bayesian updating. We then examine strategy changes made by professional football coaches. We find they are more likely to revise their strategy after a loss than a win — even for narrow losses, which are uninformative about future success. This increased revision following a loss occurs even when a loss was expected, and the offensive strategy is revised even when failure is attributable to the defense. These results are consistent with our model’s predictions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17477

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