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In celebration of a couple of Canadian gold medals in Vancouver, this week’s Jockology looks at the science behind home-field advantage:
The biggest edge gold medalists Maëlle Ricker and Alexandre Bilodeau had over their Olympic opponents may have been from their brain chemistry rather than the roar of Canadian spectators at Cypress Mountain.
A series of studies over the past decade has debunked the long-held theory that home advantage stems primarily from external factors such as an enthusiastic crowd, a familiar venue, travel-weary opponents and officials whose calls are swayed by the crowd. While these factors can play a role, a more basic biological imperative may be at work, as athletes display an evolutionarily driven desire to protect their territory. [read on…]
There are a bunch of interesting studies on the topic, which dissect the role of crowds, stadiums, refs and so on. There’s a sidebar to the piece that doesn’t appear in the online version (not sure if it’s in the paper version), so I’ll reproduce it here:
Can fans influence the game?
A new study shows that sports teams have a “home advantage” even if there’s no one in the stands. But that doesn’t mean crowds don’t have an impact. A 2002 study in the journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise asked qualified soccer referees to make calls on games they watched on video, with the sound either turned on or off. The refs who could hear crowd noise called 15 per cent fewer fouls against the home team than those watching in silence.