Pressure and panic … a sporting choke in RWC?

This interview with Welsh legend Sir Gareth Edwards gives some interesting insights into ENG V WAL.  Sir Gareth attributes England’s downfall to a combination of pressure and panic. A simple question: did England choke in the last quarter?

Recall that we posted beforehand that England had a superior home record against Wales. They were also higher ranked (albeit by one notch), and have a much larger playing pool (340k vs 73k registered players).

One of the most active research field in modern economics is so-called behavioural economics – or the role of psychology in economics.  It has found that people routinely show a range of biases, such as loss aversion, overconfidence, a preference for status quo, a basis to the present, endowment effects (what we have we hold) etc…. The University of Stirling in Scotland, for example, has a unit that specialises in this type of research, Univ Stirling blog.

There is behavioural research that has looked at sports e.g. see paying not to go to the gym   while this paper suggests that professional golfers show loss aversion .

The phenomenon of choking in professional sports has also been considered.  This paper by Hickman and Metz Impact of Pressure on Performance for example, found that professional golfers were more likely to miss putts as the amount of potential success money increased.

There has been very little research to date on this in rugby, but it is not at all inconceivable that rugby players would be subject to the same type of biases and the potential to under-perform under pressure. For example, see  stuff.co.nz with All Black RWC 2011 winner Brad Thorn’s comments on the pressure he felt during that final, “I was in tears after the whistle in the final and that was because I had put so much pressure on myself.”

If you would like more detail on this, please contact us @empiricalrugby1

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Empirical Rugby

Empirical Rugby is a blog that provides fundmental insight into rugby union using empirical analysis of rugby data.

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