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Choking or excelling under pressure: Evidence of the causal effect of audience size on performance

Wen-jhan Jane

Bulletin of Economic Research, 2022, vol. 74, issue 1, 329-357

Abstract: Performing in front of a crowd increases motivation. However, it also creates a psychological pressure, which may hinder performance, especially in precision tasks in decisive situations, such as assessment tests, job‐related talks, or sports competitions. In this paper, I shed light on the effects of pressure on performance. Using the task of batting in baseball competitions involving Major League Baseball regular season games from 2015 to 2018, I find evidence of a negative causal effect of audience size on the probability of a successful bat for all players. The results are in line with the hypothesis of choking under pressure when performing skill‐based tasks. However, contrary to what would be expected given the evidence in favor of a choking phenomenon, star batters do not choke but instead tend to excel when facing large audience. They also behave differently from nonstar batters when facing different audience compositions.

Date: 2022
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Handle: RePEc:bla:buecrs:v:74:y:2022:i:1:p:329-357