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Psychological pressure in competitive environments: Evidence from a randomized natural experiment

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  • Jose Apesteguia

    ()

  • Ignacio Palacios-Huerta

Abstract

Much like cognitive abilities, emotional skills can have major effects on perfor mance and economic outcomes. This paper studies the behavior of professional subjects involved in a dynamic competition in their own natural environment. The setting is a penalty shoot-out in soccer where two teams compete in a tournament framework taking turns in a sequence of five penalty kicks each. As the kicking order is determined by the random outcome of a coin flip, the treatment and control groups are determined via explicit randomization. Therefore, absent any psychological effects, both teams should have the same probability of winning regardless of the kicking order. Yet, we find a systematic first-kicker advantage. Using data on 2,731 penalty kicks from 262 shoot-outs for a three decade period, we find that teams kicking first win the penalty shoot-out 60.5% of the time. A dynamic panel data analysis shows that the psychological mechanism underlying this result arises from the asymmetry in the partial score. As most kicks are scored, kicking first typically means having the opportunity to lead in the partial score, whereas kicking second typically means lagging in the score and having the opportunity to, at most, get even. Having a worse prospect than the opponent hinders subjects' performance. Further, we also find that professionals are self-aware of their own psychological effects. When a recent change in regulations gives winners of the coin toss the chance to choose the kicking order, they rationally react to it by systematically choosing to kick first. A survey of professional players reveals that when asked to explain why they prefer to kick first, they precisely identify the psychological mechanism for which we find empirical support in the data: they want “to lead in the score in order to put pressure on the opponent.”

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1116.

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Date of creation: Oct 2008
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1116

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Filippin, Antonio & van Ours, Jan C, 2012. "Run For Fun: Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Performance," CEPR Discussion Papers 8873, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Qiang Fu & Changxia Ke & Fangfang Tan, 2013. ""Success breeds success" or "Pride goes before a fall"? Teams and Individuals in Best-of-Three Contests," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2013-06, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
  3. Kocher, Martin G. & Lenz, Marc V. & Sutter, Matthias, 2010. "Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment: Comment," IZA Discussion Papers 4846, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Alex Krumer, 2013. "Best-of-two contests with psychological effects," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 75(1), pages 85-100, July.
  5. Francesco Feri & Alessandro Innocenti & Paolo Pin, 2012. "Is There Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments?," Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena 044, University of Siena.
  6. Mueller-Langer, Frank & Andreoli-Versbach, Patrick, 2013. "Leading-effect vs. Risk-taking in Dynamic Tournaments: Evidence from a Real-life Randomized Experiment," Discussion Papers in Economics 15452, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  7. Francesco Feri & Alessandro Innocenti & Paolo Pin, 2011. "Psychological Pressure in Competitive Environments: Evidence from A Randomized Natural Experiment: Comment," Working Papers 2011-03, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  8. Caterina Calsamiglia & Jörg Franke & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2009. "The Incentive Effects of Affirmative Action in a Real-Effort Tournament," Working Papers 404, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  9. Braga, Breno & Guillén, Diogo, 2012. "Working under pressure: Evidence from the impacts of soccer fans on players’ performance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 114(2), pages 212-215.
  10. González-Díaz, Julio & Gossner, Olivier & Rogers, Brian W., 2012. "Performing best when it matters most: Evidence from professional tennis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 767-781.

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