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Choking under pressure – Evidence of the causal effect of audience size on performance

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  • Böheim, René
  • Grübl, Dominik
  • Lackner, Mario

Abstract

We analyze performance under pressure and estimate the causal effect of audience size on the success of free throws in top-level professional basketball. We use data from the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the seasons 2007/08 through 2015/16. We exploit the exogenous variation in weather conditions on game day to establish a causal link between attendance size and performance. Our results confirm a sizeable and strong negative effect of the number of spectators on performance. Home teams in (non-critical) situations at the beginning of games perform worse when the audience is larger. This result is consistent with the theory of a home choke rather than a home field advantage. Our results have potentially large implications for general questions of workplace design and help to further understand how the social environment affects performance. We demonstrate that positive feedback from a friendly audience does affect performance negatively.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:168:y:2019:i:c:p:76-93
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.10.001
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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).
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Massimiliano Ferraresi & Gianluca Gucciardi, 2020. "Team performance and audience: experimental evidence from the football sector," Working papers 94, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
    6. 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.
    7. Cueva, Carlos, 2020. "Animal Spirits in the Beautiful Game. Testing social pressure in professional football during the COVID-19 lockdown," OSF Preprints hczkj, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Performance under pressure; Choking; Paradoxical performance effects on incentives; Social pressure;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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