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

Ken Harb-Wu and Alex Krumer ()

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2019, vol. 166, issue C, 246-262

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.

Keywords: Choking under pressure; Paradoxical performance effects of incentives; Social pressure; Biathlon; Home advantage (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: M54 Z13 Z20 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Working Paper: Choking Under Pressure in Front of a Supportive Audience: Evidence from Professional Biathlon (2017) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.09.001

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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