freakonomics

The economics of football (soccer) substitutions

An economist’s study of the optimal timing of substitutions in football matches (spanning a bunch of 2009/10 leagues) discovered the following:

Dr. Myers analyzed the substitutions and ensuing results of every game played during the 2009-10 season in the top English, Spanish, Italian and German professional leagues, as well as the 2010 Major League Soccer season and the 2010 World Cup. He concluded that if their team is behind, managers should make the first substitution prior to the 58th minute, the second substitution prior to the 73rd minute and the third prior to the 79th minute. Teams that follow these guidelines improve—score at least one goal—roughly 36% of the time. Teams that don’t follow the rule improve about 18.5% of the time. He noted 1,037 instances the rule could have been applied and found that managers abide by it a little less than half the time. He also found that the timing of subs has no effect on the team ahead in the score or if the match is tied.

Via Freakonomics, more at the Wall Street Journal.

Undercover unbelievers

An article from Freakonomics has caused a bit of a stir. A family from the Bible Belt confessed to feigning Christianity in order to fit in. It’s sad. If the church is pressuring people – either overtly or covertly to conform behaviourally without a change in beliefs first then it is not doing its job. The church should be loving and seeking the welfare of non-Christians – and Christian parents should be encouraging their kids to play with the non-Christian kid next door. If they’re so worried about their kid being converted by the friendly neighbourhood atheist then maybe they should reconsider their parenting strategy lest the kid make up their own mind when they reach his/her 20s only to discover a big and scary world of ideas beyond their sheltered milieu.

Here’s a quote from the article…

We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk.

It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality.

I know we Christians want our children to grow up just like us (and I’m not a parent – though I have been a child) but surely we can be just as confident that our children will make the right choice as the agnostic is about theirs… I wonder if there’s a correlation between the parents who don’t believe in vaccination and parents who don’t let their children play with the scary atheists.

This was not the most interesting part of that particular Freakonomics post. Oh no. The most interesting part was this study of the effect of using an open collection plate rather than a closed bag thing – this further demonstrates the hypocrisy inherent in the system.

In these churches, the collection was taken up in a closed bag that was passed along from person to person, row to row. Soetevent got the churches to let him switch things up, randomly substituting an open collection basket for the closed bags over a period of several months. He wanted to know if the added scrutiny changed the donation patterns. (An open basket lets you see how much money has already been collected as well as how much your neighbor puts in.) Indeed it did: with open baskets, the churchgoers gave more money, including fewer small-denomination coins, than with closed bags — although, interestingly, the effect petered out once the open baskets had been around for a while.

Name and shame

It turns out that nominal determinism has something to it…

A news story reporting on a study of school performance in Germany reports what anybody who has read Freakonomics already knows. Names can cause all sorts of dramas.

The Freakonomics blog linked to this news story which explained a little bit about why all the staff are deserting the PM’s office.

“The name Kevin was perceived as being linked to especially poor behaviour and performance, with one study participant even writing that, “Kevin is not a name – it’s a diagnosis!””

This is a German study so these names don’t look like orthodox Australian names – but the study of 2,000 teachers found that people with normal names turn out better.

“The study reveals that the names traditional names such as Charlotte, Sophie, Marie, Hannah, Alexander, Maximilian, Simon, Lukas and Jakob are consistently linked to strong performance and good behaviour. Non-traditional names such as Chantal, Mandy, Angelina, Kevin, Justin and Maurice, on the other hand, are associated with weak performance and bad behaviour.”

Naming Rights (and wrongs)

A new “study” has found that names count. It’s pretty much the same theory expounded on in detail in Freakonomics – that people with dumb names will be picked on, or come from dumb families – and these environmental factors will cause them to grow up pretty screwed up. The study found that:

“Boys with unpopular, girlish or uncommon names often are ridiculed by peers, come from families of low socioeconomic status and face discrimination in the workforce based on a preconceived bias about their names, according to the study, which analysed more than 15,000 names.”

According to the SMH article the top 10 bad-boy names are:

  1. Alec
  2. Ernest
  3. Garland
  4. Ivan
  5. Kareem
  6. Luke
  7. Malcolm
  8. Preston
  9. Tyrell
  10. Walter
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