Monday, August 11, 2008

Impress the Refs with Red

If you've been watching the Olympics and wondering how the judges come up with some of the scores, perhaps they are just too influenced by the competitors wearing red, as some scientists decided to test.

"To test this idea, Hagemann and colleagues chose recruited 42 seasoned referees who, between them, had over 320 years of experience at judging tae kwon do matches. The judges watched one of two sets of videos clips, showing matches between contestants who wore red or blue gear. Both sets of clips were completely identical save for one key difference - in one, the experimenters had digitally swapped the colours of the fighters' clothes.

The referees watched the matches and, following the rules of the World Taekwondo Federation, awarded their points. And when Hagemann tallied up the scores, he found that the red fighters scored on average 13% more points than the blue ones. When a blue competitor was digitally transformed into a red one, his points tended to rise but a red competitor who was turned into a blue one was awarded lower scores. Neither set of clips was given a higher total number of points.

It's a very neat result - with a bit of digital sleight-of-hand, Hagemann found that referees will assign more points to red-clothed contestants than they would to blue-clothed ones, even if their performance is exactly the same."

No wonder China has won so many medals in the judgement sports.

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