Never Too Much—The Benefit of Talent to Team Performance in the National Basketball Association: Comment on Swaab, Schaerer, Anicich, Ronay, and Galinsky (2014)

Bartosz Gula*, Nemanja Vaci, Rainer W. Alexandrowicz, Merim Bilalić

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

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Abstract

As long ago as the 4th century BCE, Aristotle (~350 BCE/1999) claimed that moderate amounts of qualities, rather than an abundance thereof, are needed for success. Indeed, there are a number of too-much-of-a-good-thing (TMGT) phenomena in psychology in which generally positive traits start to exert negative influence after a certain point (for reviews, see Grant & Schwartz, 2011; Pierce & Aguinis, 2013; for a general framework, see Busse, Mahlendorf, & Bode, 2016). Swaab, Schaerer, Anicich, Ronay, and Galinsky (2014) demonstrated such a phenomenon in team sports: Having more talented team members leads to better team performance up to a certain point, after which talent becomes “too much” and detrimental to performance. This too-much-talent (TMT) effect was present in basketball and soccer, professional team sports with high coordination requirements, presumably because status conflicts among highly skilled members impair coordination in teams. The TMT effect was absent in baseball, in which these requirements are lower. Here, we reexamine the TMT effect in basketball, the only domain in which the TMT effect has been shown,1 using the same data set as in the original study as well as a much larger data set. We demonstrate that Swaab et al.’s evidence of TMT is based on an inappropriate approach to testing the inverse-U-shaped relation. The results demonstrate that the common belief among laypeople (Swaab et al., 2014 Study 1) is actually correct—teams generally benefit from more talented members although the benefits decrease marginally. We did not observe any case in which increased talent was detrimental to team success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-304
Number of pages4
JournalPsychological Science
Volume32
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

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