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Choking under pressure in front of a supportive audience: Evidence from professional biathlon

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  • Harb-Wu, Ken
  • Krumer, Alex

Abstract

Performing in front of a supportive audience increases motivation. However, it also creates psychological pressure, which may impair performance, especially in precision tasks. In this paper, we exploit a unique setting in which professionals compete in a real-life contest with large monetary rewards in order to assess how they perform in front of a supportive audience. Using the task of shooting in the sprint competitions of professional biathlon events over a period of 16 years, we find that for both genders, biathletes from the top quartile of the ability distribution miss significantly more shots when competing in their home country compared to competing abroad. Our results are in line with the hypothesis that high expectations to perform well in front of a friendly audience prompt individuals to choke when performing skill-based tasks.

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  • Harb-Wu, Ken & Krumer, Alex, 2019. "Choking under pressure in front of a supportive audience: Evidence from professional biathlon," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 246-262.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:166:y:2019:i:c:p:246-262
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.09.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Florian Lindner, 2017. "Choking under pressure of top performers: Evidence from biathlon competitions," Working Papers 2017-24, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    2. René Böheim & Christoph Freudenthaler & Mario Lackner, 2019. "Do male managers increase risk-taking of female teams? Evidence from the NCAA," Department of Economics Working Papers wuwp281, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    3. Bar-Eli, Michael & Krumer, Alex & Morgulev, Elia, 2020. "Ask not what economics can do for sports - Ask what sports can do for economics," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    4. Helena Fornwagner & Monika Pompeo & Nina Serdarevic, 2020. "Him or her? Choosing competition on behalf of someone else," Discussion Papers 2020-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    5. Bühren, Christoph & Steinberg, Philip J., 2019. "The impact of psychological traits on performance in sequential tournaments: Evidence from a tennis field experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 12-29.
    6. Böheim, René & Grübl, Dominik & Lackner, Mario, 2019. "Choking under pressure – Evidence of the causal effect of audience size on performance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 76-93.
    7. J. James Reade & Dominik Schreyer & Carl Singleton, 2020. "Echoes: what happens when football is played behind closed doors?," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2020-14, Department of Economics, Reading University.
    8. Sonnabend, Hendrik & Lackner, Mario, 2020. "Gender differences in overconfidence and decision making in high-stakes competitions: evidence from freediving contests," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224595, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Klein Teeselink, Bouke & Potter van Loon, Rogier J.D. & van den Assem, Martijn J. & van Dolder, Dennie, 2020. "Incentives, performance and choking in darts," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 38-52.
    10. Krumer, Alex, 2020. "Pressure versus ability: Evidence from penalty shoot-outs between teams from different divisions," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    11. Massimiliano Ferraresi & Gianluca Gucciardi, 2020. "Team performance and audience: experimental evidence from the football sector," Working papers 94, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
    12. Cohen-Zada, Danny & Krumer, Alex & Shapir, Offer Moshe, 2018. "Testing the effect of serve order in tennis tiebreak," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 106-115.
    13. J. James Reade & Dominik Schreyer & Carl Singleton, 2020. "Eliminating supportive crowds reduces referee bias," Economics Discussion Papers em-dp2020-25, Department of Economics, Reading University.
    14. Bucciol, Alessandro & Castagnetti, Alessandro, 2020. "Choking under pressure in archery," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    15. Bühren, Christoph & Kadriu, Valon, 2020. "The fairness of long and short ABBA-sequences: A basketball free-throw field experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    16. Christoph Buehren & Lisa Traeger, 2020. "The Impact of Psychological Pressure and Psychological Traits on Performance – Experimental Evidence of Penalties in Handball," MAGKS Papers on Economics 202043, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Choking under pressure; Paradoxical performance effects of incentives; Social pressure; Biathlon; Home advantage;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • Z20 - Other Special Topics - - Sports Economics - - - General

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