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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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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. Böheim, René & Freudenthaler, Christoph & Lackner, Mario, 2019. "Do male managers increase risk-taking of female teams? Evidence from the NCAA," Department of Economics Working Paper Series 281, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Bouke Klein Teeselink & Rogier J. D. Potter van Loon & Martijn (M.J.) van den Assem & Dennie van Dolder, 2018. "Incentives, Performance and Choking in Darts," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 18-101/IV, Tinbergen Institute, revised 30 Sep 2019.
    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. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Choking under pressure; Paradoxical performance effects of incentives; Social pressure; Biathlon; Home advantage;

    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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