Sports Fan Science

By Marc Resnick:

I am reading a very interesting book on sports fandom.  It’s an edited book where each chapter is written by a different author with expertise in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other areas.  The chapters range from why do people become fans to why do some people let players who engage in off the field transgressions (e.g. Michael Vick) off the hook.  The essays are a little outside our field, but have some similarities that can be applied to the workplace or consumer product design.  Fans of Apple iPhones exhibit some of the same characteristics.  It’s hard to summarize 16 different essays in one blog post, so I will just do one today and maybe one more later.

One finding is a coping strategy that I have seen a lot in workplace investigations.  As a game approaches, the more fanatical a fan is, the more their confidence/expectation of win goes down (they become more pessimistic and less optimistic about winning).  The authors hypothesize that this is a way of protecting yourself from the depression of loss.  And this continues after a loss.  Hindsight bias comes into play and you think of reasons why you didn’t really expect your team to win anyway.  It always amazes me at the unconscious ways our brain protects us from negative affect like sadness and failure.

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