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Cheers vs. Jeers: Effects of audience feedback on individual athletic performance



Both athletes and fans believe that audience support (e.g., cheering) is one of the top influences on a team's success, particularly at home when the crowd is predominantly supportive, possibly contributing to reported home-field advantage (Courneya & Carron, 1992). Yet there are few experimental investigations of whether distinctive types of audience feedback have differential effects on athletes' performance of particular sports skills. In this study, college athletes performed a familiar task in their respective sport (pitching, free throw shooting, hitting a golf ball) in front of audiences who cheered, jeered, and remained silent, depending on the assigned condition. Basketball players' free throw performance was unaffected by audience condition, but jeers hurt performance for baseball pitchers, and jeers and cheers resulted in worse performance for golfers. Audiences or fans can impact performance, but impact may depend on sport, the specific sport skill, and specific audience behavior. Implications for understanding the role of audiences and home-field advantage are considered.
Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. L. Kimberly Epting at or Department of Psychology, Campus Box 2337, Elon
University, Elon, NC 27244.
North American Journal of Psychology, 2011, Vol. 13, No. 2, 299-312.
Cheers vs. Jeers: Effects of Audience Feedback
on Individual Athletic Performance
L. Kimberly Epting and Kristen N. Riggs
Elon University
Joseph D. Knowles and John J. Hanky
Hampden-Sydney College
Both athletes and fans believe that audience support (e.g., cheering) is
one of the top influences on a team’s success, particularly at home when
the crowd is predominantly supportive, possibly contributing to reported
home-field advantage (Courneya & Carron, 1992). Yet there are few
experimental investigations of whether distinctive types of audience
feedback have differential effects on athletes’ performance of particular
sports skills. In this study, college athletes performed a familiar task in
their respective sport (pitching, free throw shooting, hitting a golf ball) in
front of audiences who cheered, jeered, and remained silent, depending
on the assigned condition. Basketball players’ free throw performance
was unaffected by audience condition, but jeers hurt performance for
baseball pitchers, and jeers and cheers resulted in worse performance for
golfers. Audiences or fans can impact performance, but impact may
depend on sport, the specific sport skill, and specific audience behavior.
Implications for understanding the role of audiences and home-field
advantage are considered.
There are a number of factors that can influence an athlete’s
performance during a game other than the athlete’s skill. Athletes must
perform in front of crowds in every game, and crowds express their
feelings about athletes’ performances by, for instance, cheering
(supporting them) or jeering (discouraging them). The presence of such
an audience may affect team and individual athlete performance.
Social facilitation has been characterized as the effect of observers on
individual performance (Butler & Baumeister, 1998; Zajonc, 1965). In
general, research shows the presence of one or more spectators can
enhance performance if the skill is easy or well learned, but performance
may decrease if the task is difficult or unfamiliar (Cottrell, Wack,
Sekerak, & Rittle, 1968; Forgas, Brennan, Howe, Kane, & Sweet, 1980;
Strauss, 2002a; Zajonc, 1965). For example, in one of the earliest studies
on social facilitation, Travis (1925) found that participants engaged in a
pursuit-rotor task performed significantly better (made fewer tracking
errors) when they were observed by an audience of four to eight people
compared to when they performed alone. Michaels, Blommel, Brocato,
Linkous, and Rowe (1982) showed that better pool players improved
their performance when they had a small group of spectators, but
mediocre players had a decrease in performance when being watched.
Taken at face value, then, given that the skills athletes perform during
their sport are familiar, well-practiced ones, one might expect positive
effects of social facilitation to exist for athletes during sporting games
(cf., Carron, Burke, & Prapavessis, 2004).
But of course, audiences for sporting events are not merely present;
they do not merely observe the performance of athletes during a game.
Rather, they engage in a variety of behaviors that interact with the
players for each team in games (Cox, 1985). They may applaud when a
receiver catches the football and heads for the end zone. They may
heckle the batter on deck for the opposing team. They may offer silence
for the player shooting from the foul line if she or he is on their preferred
team, or they may rumble loudly trying to distract the shooter if she or he
is on the non-preferred team. In simple terms, audiences cheer and jeer.
Audience effects, then, may be very different than mere spectator effects.
Studies have shown clearly that audiences can impact physiological
variables of athletes (e.g., arousal, cardiac performance), as well as
cognitive variables such as self-concept and perceptions of performance
(e.g., see Jones, Bray, & Lavallee, 2007). However, less is known about
how particular audience behaviors, like cheering or jeering, influence
athletes’ actual performance.
The notion that what audiences do interacts with and has an effect on
the performance of athletes ostensibly is substantiated in the home-field
advantage literature. Home-field advantage refers to the established
finding across several sports that, given a balanced home and away
schedule, teams typically win more home games than away games
(Courneya & Carron, 1992; McCutcheon, 1984; Nevill & Holder, 1999).
Many aspects of the sports situation, such as facility familiarity, relative
fatigue, referee bias, and territorial defense effects have been proffered as
influential factors in home-field advantage (Moore & Brylinsky, 1993;
Salminen, 1993; Schwartz & Barsky, 1977). But researchers, athletes,
and fans repeatedly assert that the crowd is a key element. More
specifically, it is widely believed that “crowd support,” “supportive
audience,” home crowd,” “home team fans” is one of the aspects that
gives the home team the edge (Courneya & Carron, 1992; Schwartz &
Barsky, 1977; Tauer, Guenther, & Rozek, 2009).
Presumably, having a supportive and encouraging audience motivates
the athletes to perform better. Some studies have investigated whether
having an audience present enhances performance, and have found rather
Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky CHEERS VS. JEERS 301
surprising results. For example, taking advantage of quarantine due to a
measles outbreak that resulted in some season basketball games being
played with an audience and others without, Moore and Brylinsky (1993)
found measures of team performance did not differ depending on
audience presence, by one analysis. However, by a second analysis
examining effect sizes, they concluded that team performance was
actually better when there was no audience. In one of the few
experimental studies in the area, Forgas, et al. (1980) systematically
varied the composition of the audience for squash players, with no
audience, female audience, and male audience, and found overall, the
presence of an audience decreased performance. But importantly, these
audiences were spectator-only; the observers did not interact with the
players in any way.
Other studies have tried to consider the mood or reactions of the
audience as a predictive variable for team performance. For instance,
Salminen (1993) studied Finnish soccer, hockey, and basketball matches,
with a focus on the relationship between audience reactions and goals
and penalties, based on 5-minute game intervals. Results suggested
neither enhancing effects of a supportive audience nor inhibiting effects
of an unsupportive audience. Focusing more exclusively on moments of
negative or unsupportive audience action, Greer (1983) found the five
minutes following particularly noticeable audience protesting behaviors
(e.g., collective booing) were associated with basketball home teams
gaining advantage (more scoring, fewer violations/turnovers)
simultaneous with visiting teams suffering decline (fewer successful
shots, more violations/turnovers). They suggested the primary
contributor to home-team advantage may be the visiting team
performance being actively hurt by unsupportive audience behavior
(rather than, say, that the audience behavior generated a bias in
refereeing). Thirer and Rampey (1979) discovered interesting
relationships between extreme negative audience behavior and team
performance in basketball. Normal audience conditions were associated
with fewer fouls and turnovers for the home team compared to visiting
teams. Yet, in 5-minute periods following extreme negative audience
tactics (i.e., behavior beyond normal ‘booing’, such as throwing objects,
fighting, chanting obscenities), the home team tended to have more
infractions than visitors. That is, extreme anti-social behaviors of the
audience were predictive of performance decrements for the home team;
this audience behavior was not related to changes in performance of
visiting teams.
Ultimately, years of research have revealed contradictory results
about both the reality of the home-field advantage and the specific role of
audiences (e.g., Baumeister, Hamilton, & Tice, 1985; Baumeister &
Steinhilber, 1984; Schlenker, Phillips, Boniecki, & Schlenker, 1995;
Smith, 2005; Strauss, 2002b; Tauer, et al., 2009; Wright, Voyer, Wright,
& Roney, 1995). Yet despite these equivocal findings, perception and
belief in enhancing effects of the home crowd remain strong in fans and
athletes alike, as well as researchers and the media (e.g., Bray &
Widmeyer, 2000; Schlenker, et al., 1995; Smith, 2005; Wallace,
Baumeister, & Vohs, 2005; Wang, 2006; Wolfson, Wakelin, & Lewis,
2005). Moreover, it is worth noting that most of the studies that consider
audience factors and sports performance have been archival,
observational, or quasi-experimental; there has been no systematic
control over the behavior of the audience, for example. In addition, most
studies have looked at whole game situations and overall team
performance (e.g., number of points, wins/losses, RBIs, etc.). Of course,
these are important, as indeed the performances of interest do occur in
real games, with uncontrolled audiences and whole teams (Greer, 1983;
Moore & Brylinsky, 1993; Tauer, et al., 2009). But there seem to be two
largely untested issues embedded in conclusions about the role of
interactive audiences in home advantage: (1) that team outcomes reflect
performance across individual athletes and various skills; and (2) that
specific audience behaviors are at least partially responsible for
individual athletic performance leading to team outcomes. That is to say,
it is commonly presumed that the crowd’s cheering and jeering offers
social support to their team and that such behavior actually affects
specific skills of individual athletes in ways that produce differential
outcomes for the teams (cf., Greer, 1983; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Tauer,
et al., 2009).
The assumption is not without merit. After all, we know that
supportive behavior from coaches reinforces specific team and individual
skills, at least during practices. Operant techniques have been used
widely to develop and improve motor behaviors, many related
specifically to performance in sports. For example, contingent access to
music increased the productive practice behaviors and decreased the
nonproductive behaviors of teenaged competitive swimmers (Hume &
Crossman, 1992). Also working with swimmers, McKenzie and Rushall
(1974) found that social reinforcement from peers and praise from
coaches increased practice attendance as well as the number of laps
individuals swam each day. Allison and Ayllon (1980) showed that
specific consequences delivered by coaches affected the blocking skills
of teenage football players. Given encouraging responses (e.g., “good,
“that’s better”) from the coach for correct blocks and unsupportive
responses (e.g., “you lack courage,” “horrible”) plus having to run laps
after incorrect blocks, the young players’ good blocks increased and their
errors decreased compared to baseline performance. Similar behavioral
Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky CHEERS VS. JEERS 303
coaching resulted in improvements for three gymnastics skills and three
tennis strokes as well (Allison & Ayllon, 1980). Such behavioral
coaching (i.e., praise, corrective feedback, tracking data/performance
charts) also has been shown effective for increasing correct tags of inline
roller speed skaters (Anderson & Kirkpatrick, 2002) and for improving
punching and kicking techniques of martial artists (Harding, Wacker,
Berg, Rick, & Lee, 2004). These studies primarily consider the effects of
coaches’ behaviors on athletes’ performance, but it seems a plausible
extension, and certainly congruent with popular opinion, that cheering
(praise) from fans also could be a reinforcing consequence of individual
athletic skills and jeering could be a punishing consequence. Yet, there is
little direct experimental evidence to support this contention.
The present experiment investigated the effects of differential
audience behavior (cheers, jeers, silence) on individual golf, baseball,
and basketball players’ performance of a particular sport-specific skill.
Given that in golf, silence is encouraged in the audience, it was
hypothesized that athletic performance in golfers would be best when the
audience was silent as opposed to cheering or jeering. However, it was
hypothesized that athletic performance for baseball and basketball would
increase when the audience cheered over being silent and that
performance would be lowest with the jeering audience.
This study used a 3 x 3 mixed factor design. The independent
variables were type of audience feedback (cheers, jeers, or silent), a
within subjects manipulation, and type of sport played (golf, baseball,
and basketball), a between subjects variable. The dependent variable was
accuracy for the sport-specific tasks. These tasks were operationally
defined as the distance from the flag where the golf ball stopped, number
of strikes pitched by baseball players, and number of successful free
throws by basketball players.
Athletes. Thirty-two college athletes at a small Division III all-male
college volunteered as participants in this study: 8 golfers, 10 baseball
players, and 14 basketball players. All participants were undergraduate
students who played their respective sports regularly as members of the
college teams.
Audience. The audience consisted of undergraduate students from the
same college who volunteered from introductory psychology classes and
a campus fraternity. Audience size was always 10 students. In order to
control extraneous variables during each feedback condition, each
audience member was randomly assigned a specific “cheer” (e.g., “Yeah!
Great job!”; “You are the man!”) and “jeer” (e.g., “Miss it!”; “You
suck!”) to use in the good (cheer) and bad (jeer) feedback conditions.
Audience members were told to speak from the script only, and they
shouted their various cheers or jeers through each of 10 trials in each
condition. In the silent condition, the audience was present but not
interactive for 10 trials (i.e., spectator only).
Testing for baseball took place on the college baseball field.
Materials used included a regulation baseball, a regulation height
pitching mound, and a net with a target 30 inches high and 17 inches
wide (i.e. strike zone). Testing for the basketball task took place in the
college basketball gymnasium. Materials used included a regulation
basketball, a regulation basketball goal (10 feet high), and a regulation
free throw line (15 feet from the goal). Testing for golf was examined on
the college campus driving range. The materials for this sport included
30 regulation golf balls, a 9-iron golf club, and a flag 100 yards from the
hitting point. A 100 ft measuring tape measured the distance, in yards,
each ball stopped from the target.
Testing took place in different sessions according to the sport. As
participants arrived, they signed an informed consent form. All athletes
were allowed to warm up for 10 minutes before the test trials began.
Athletes were told they would perform their sport skill 30 times in front
of an audience comprised of fellow students at the college. Given the
small size of the college, athletes may have known some of the audience
members. The audience was then put into the stands around the test area.
Athletes were brought in one at a time, and each completed 10 sport
specific task performances in the good, bad, and silent conditions for a
total of 30 trials (golfers hit the balls from 100 yards away from the
target; baseball pitchers pitched from the pitching mound; basketball
players shot from the free throw line). The order of the audience
conditions was randomized across participants in each sport. Each
audience member was assigned a feedback statement for the session to
make sure that each feedback statement was used equally. During the
cheering condition, the audience was asked to clap and shout positive
remarks to the athlete such as, “Way to go!” or “You can do it!” During
the jeering condition, the audience was asked to boo and shout negative
comments such as, “Choke!” or “You suck!” During the silent condition,
the audience was asked to be completely silent while the participant
completed his 10 hits, pitches, or shots. In golf, the cheers and jeers
began as the golfer set up for his swing, continued through the swing and
Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky CHEERS VS. JEERS 305
stopped after the ball had been hit. In baseball, the cheers and jeers began
as the athlete set up before the pitch, continued through the pitch and
stopped after the ball had been thrown. Similarly in basketball, the cheers
and jeers began as the athlete set up to shoot a free-throw, continued
through the throw and stopped after the ball was shot. All participants
were debriefed at the end of the performances and asked not to talk about
the experiment with other athletes that may also be in the study.
The design was a 3 x 3 mixed factor design with audience condition
as a within subject factor and sport as a between subject factor, and
accuracy of performance as the dependent variable. Accuracy for
baseball was measured by number of strikes out of 10 pitches. Similarly,
basketball accuracy was the number of baskets made out of 10 free
throws. In contrast, the distance from the target in yards represented
golfers’ hitting accuracy. Table 1 provides the means and standard
deviations for each audience condition for each sport separately (i.e.,
number of successes for baseball and basketball and distance in yards for
golf). Given dependent measures of different metrics, audience condition
and sport could not be considered together. Thus, for each sport,
collapsed across audience condition, data were transformed to z-scores so
that all the data could be analyzed together. A 3 x 3 repeated measures
ANOVA analyzed the transformed data. Because the data were
transformed within each sport, giving each sport a mean z-score of 0, the
TABLE 1 Performance Accuracy in Each Audience Condition
Audience Condition
Silent Cheers Jeers
Sport M SD M SD M SD
Baseball 5.200 0.789 4.700 2.363 2.800 1.229
Basketball 8.214 1.477 8.214 1.762 8.214 1.578
Golf 10.391 1.857 11.889 2.492 12.713 3.471
Note. Accuracy is in terms of number of successes (of 10 attempts) for baseball and
basketball but distance (yards) to the flag for golf.
analysis for a main effect of sport is virtually meaningless, F(2, 29) =
0.00, p = 1.00. There was no main effect of audience condition on
performance, F(2, 58) = .838, p = .438. However, there was a significant
interaction between sport and audience condition on performance, F(4,
58) = 5.077, p = .001,
= .259, indicating that the effect of audience
condition differed depending on the specific sport.
Simple main effects revealed that audience condition did not affect
the success of basketball free throws, F(2, 58) = 0.00, p > .05. Indeed, a
glance at the means for basketball in Table 1 reveals that on average
basketball players missed very few of their free throws and the means of
the three conditions were essentially identical (to the 16
basketball players shot with 80% success on average. Simple main
effects on the data from baseball players showed audience condition did
significantly affect pitching performance, F(2, 58) = 8.527, p < .01,
.512. Post-hoc LSD tests indicated that jeers resulted in worse
performance compared to both cheers (p = .002) and silence (p = .001),
but pitching did not differ significantly between the cheers and silent
audience conditions (p = .521). Audience condition also significantly
influenced the hitting performance of golfers, F(2, 58) = 5.084, p < .05,
= .359. Specifically, golfers’ accuracy decreased in both the jeers
and cheers conditions compared to the silent audience condition (both p’s
< .05), but performance was not different between cheers and jeers (p =
The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effects of
differential crowd behavior (cheers, jeers, and silence) on individual
golfer, baseball, and basketball players’ performance. The effect of
audience condition differed depending on the sport. Pitchers threw
significantly fewer strikes given an unsupportive audience than they did
given supportive or silent audiences. Golfers performed best when the
audience was silent and performed worse given both jeering and cheering
audiences. Yet audience condition did not affect the success of basketball
free throws at all. These findings suggest a number of considerations for
understanding audience effects, the home advantage, and future research.
The present study is one of few experimental studies in the area, and
possibly the only study involving systematic manipulation of audience
behavior and its effects on performance of specific sport skills by
athletes. In general, the nature of the audience did matter, at least for the
athletic skills tested in baseball and golf. Thus, the present findings
provide additional support, at the individual athlete level, for archival and
quasi-experimental studies concluding that differential crowd behavior
creates changes in performance. Furthermore, congruent with studies like
Greer (1983) and Thirer and Rampey (1979), the present results
especially highlight the role of negative audience behavior like jeering.
As such, this study and its findings serve as a call for more attention to
changes in performance of individual athletes, as well as on specific
skills as individually contributing factors to home advantage. It may be
that it is the susceptibility of certain athlete behaviors to differential
crowd behavior that contributes to home advantage. For instance, maybe
Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky CHEERS VS. JEERS 307
pitching is particularly important in baseball, or possibly a combination
of pitching and changes in reaction times for outfielder plays. Perhaps in
basketball, it is not free throws that are the issue, but changes in rebounds
or 3-pointers. Simply put, there may be value in dissecting both what the
audience is doing and which sport skills are affected.
It is not clear why the nature of the audience would affect the three
sport skills differently, but one possibility is that the specific skills
chosen may not have been of equal complexity. For example, basketball
players made 80% on average across conditions, suggesting that the free
throw is perhaps an excessively easy task for the athletes. To this end, as
a simple task, it is possible that the basketball results reflect a general
social facilitation effect, wherein the mere exposure of an audience
(regardless of specific behavior) boosted performance (cf. Platania &
Moran, 2001). But because this study was focused on the influence of
differential audience behavior, there was no “no audience” condition;
thus, whether the basketball players would have had similar or lower
success in free throw shooting compared to having an audience cannot be
confirmed. Nevertheless, the fact that baseball pitchers and golfers
showed changes in performance as a function of changes in audience
behavior rules out a simple social facilitation effect (cf. Guerin, 1986).
Golf performance here could be interpreted to suggest that self-
presentation played a role such that positive audience support may have
increased the chances of the golfers “choking” (cf., Baumeister and
Steinhilber, 1984; Wright, Jackson, Christie, McGuire, & Wright, 1991).
Golfers did perform worse when a supportive audience cheered
(compared to silence); of course, they performed equally poorly with the
unsupportive audience. This was also not a particularly high-pressure
situation (cf. Baumeister & Steinhilber, 1984). Furthermore, the same
self-presentation concerns were possible for baseball and basketball
players as well, yet the cheering audience did not lead to worse
performance for those athletes. Thus it is unlikely that self-presentation
concerns were a primary contributing factor in this study. Much more
likely is the fact that accepted audience behavior is quite different for
golfing than for baseball and basketball games. It is common for golf
audiences to be silent, thus cheering and jeering might be equally
distracting, leading to similar performance decrements compared to the
silent condition. Indications are that the days of pure silence are over in
golf (Hawkins, 2002; Verdi, 2001), though, so it may become
increasingly interesting to study audience behavior effects on skills
within golf. For example, there could be a golf skill that actually
improves under cheering conditions or one that is differentially hindered
by jeering. Considering which skills may be most affected by audience
behavior may shed light on some of the inconsistent or contradictory
findings in the traditional home advantage research.
Nevertheless, fans commonly believe that their cheering matters (e.g.,
Bray & Widmeyer, 2000), and research has shown that supportive
feedback, at least in coaching, can effectively improve athletic
performance (e.g., Allison & Ayllon, 1980). In contrast, the present
results showed that having a supportive audience, compared to a silent
audience, did not improve performance for baseball, basketball, or golf,
and in fact, actually harmed performance of golfers. On the other hand,
the unsupportive audience (jeers) did result in lower accuracy for both
baseball pitchers and golfers. Under these conditions, then, cheers did
not function as a reinforcer for any of the tested behaviors, but jeers
functioned as a punisher for throwing strikes and accurate golf hits.
These results may suggest the real value of fan behavior during a
sporting event is in their antagonism of the opposing team (though the
authors are not advocating encouraging this among fans). Interestingly,
this also has implications for our understanding of the so-called home-
field advantage.
Like other studies (e.g., Salminen, 1993; Strauss, 2002b), the present
study found no evidence for an enhancing effect of supportive audience
behavior (cheering). Nor did the present study find a detrimental effect
of cheering, as has been suggested by other studies (e.g., Baumeister &
Steinhilber, 1984; Wright, et al., 1991). Jones, et al. (2007) noted the
difficulty in resolving the seeming contradiction between general
findings that supportive audiences do not seem to improve athletic
performance and the fact that home teams still win more often. The
beginnings of a resolution may be in a reinterpretation of the home
advantage. Specifically, the home advantage may be better
conceptualized as a visitor disadvantage due to effects of unsupportive
audience behavior. That is, “bad” (the jeers) may simply be more
powerful than “good” (cf., Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs,
2001). In this study, cheers did not lead to better performance for the
baseball players, but jeers hurt performance. In a typical home game, the
larger (and louder) portion of the audience tends to be the home-team
fans. Although the visiting team’s fans surely jeer the home team, the
home crowd’s cheers may drown out those jeers. Thus, perhaps cheers
are not improving performance, but rather providing a shield against the
negative effects of jeers. On the other hand, the visiting team’s fans may
cheer, but they cannot overcome the louder jeers from the comparatively
larger home team fans. Consequently, performance of the visiting team is
disadvantaged because there is no insulation against the negative effects
of jeers. Of course, this is a possibility only suggested by the baseball
data in the present study, and warrants further investigation.
Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky CHEERS VS. JEERS 309
Conclusions from this study are limited by a few considerations.
First, the sample sizes for each sport were fairly small. Yet, it should be
noted that despite such small samples, effects were still found. Certainly,
the ability to detect an effect was strengthened by the within-subject
manipulation, which again also points to the potential value of more
research attention on changes in individual athletic performance across
audience conditions. As a small-scale study, the present study offers a
cautious starting point with interesting effects that provide some fodder
for future investigations.
Second, there were no audience effects on basketball free throw
accuracy. Initially, this result is odd given that evidence of a home
advantage and arguments for crowd support as a major player in home
advantage have often been among the strongest in basketball (Courneya
& Carron, 1992; Nevill & Holder, 1999; Schwartz & Barsky, 1977;
Tauer, et al., 2009). Recall, though, that there is some contrary evidence
of the importance of crowds in basketball performance (e.g., Moore &
Brylinsky, 1993). Furthermore, in the present study, only free throws
were considered. It may be that the skill chosen here is simply too easy
under these conditions, not a skill affected by crowd behavior, and/or not
one that contributes to scoring changes that produce part of the home
advantage (cf., Greer, 1983). A future study might involve a more
challenging task for basketball players such as shooting from the three-
Third, participants were college athletes who engaged in these sport
skills in front of audiences regularly, but the empirical situation was
nonetheless contrived. That is, the athletes were not playing in a real
game and could not win or lose as they can in a real game. Such an
environment may not induce the same pressure of performing well or
desire to win; the player was essentially competing against himself.
Moreover, the audiences in the present study were comprised of 10
people, certainly smaller than in a typical game situation. This may have
been a factor, but research has shown audience size does not predict
crowd effects or home advantage results well (though audience density
may play some role; for an overview, see Jones, et al., 2007). Finally,
athletes performed a single sport-specific task as individuals rather than
as part of a team. Research has shown a positive relationship between
team cohesion and individual performance suggesting that individuals
might perform better on a team than by themselves (Carron, et al., 2004).
Prapavessis and Carron (1996) suggested that this relationship might
exist in part due to the increased efforts of group members, which may
lead individual athletes to believe that they have more responsibility to
perform well for the group.
In any case, it is not known if performing in a team situation or more
authentic game environment would alter the differential effects of
audience behavior on individual athletic skill performance found here.
One might argue that the current study offered a deconstructed home-
team situation, wherein the focus was on individual performances (which
make up team performance) and one isolated sport-specific skill (which
is a regular and necessary skill of a game), in front of a small group of
fans (i.e., as fellow students at the college, the audience members could
reasonably be assumed to be fans), who engaged in behaviors typical of
audience members (cheering and jeering). How all of the aspects of game
situations may contribute individually or together remain empirical
questions. Nevertheless, the somewhat surprising results of the present
study indicate that future research in this area should continue to consider
not just an audience, but the behavior of that audience as well. There are
numerous avenues to pursue in this regard. For example, studies might
test for similar effects with additional isolated skills in baseball, such as
hitting, catching, or throwing for distance and accuracy. Others might
add elements systematically to approximate real-game situations, such as
having other players, who contribute to the cheering typically, on the
field with the pitcher. Still another avenue might include testing the
notion that the home crowd behavior is blocking the effects of jeers by
having two audiences present during individual athlete performance,
manipulating the behavior and volume of each audience. Ultimately, it
may be the case that such deconstructions of the elements will allow
experimental analyses of the relevant variables, which can then be
systematically recombined in efforts for synthesis and a more complete
understanding of role of the audience in sports.
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Author Note: The authors would like to thank Brian Rolander, who designed the
procedure and oversaw the data collection for the golf portion of the study, and
two reviewers for comments on a previous draft.
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... In sports, social influence has already been investigated extensively (cf. Epting et al., 2011;Strauss, 2002b). A particular interest within social influence research is the home advantage in team sports (Allen & Jones, 2014;Carron et al., 2005). ...
... In light of these findings, it could be argued that social support is not expressed in terms of number or density, but only in terms of concrete supportive or opposing behavior, and that this must be investigated consistently. If, however, we do not look at anecdotes and self-reports like Polybius (see above), but at the studies that examine the influence of specific spectator behavior (cheering, jeering, aggressive behavior) on athletic performance or behavior in a competitive situation, we find that the number of studies is negligible for cheering (Epting et al., 2011;Salminen, 1993;Strauss, 2002b), jeering (Epting et al., 2011; Social influence of sport spectators Strauss, Staufenbiel, van Meurs, & MacMahon preprint June 30, 2022 -2 nd updated version 26 Greer, 1983) and aggressive behavior (Thirer & Rampey, 1979). On the other hand, although the number of fouls is influenced by spectator behavior, among other things, performance is not. ...
... In light of these findings, it could be argued that social support is not expressed in terms of number or density, but only in terms of concrete supportive or opposing behavior, and that this must be investigated consistently. If, however, we do not look at anecdotes and self-reports like Polybius (see above), but at the studies that examine the influence of specific spectator behavior (cheering, jeering, aggressive behavior) on athletic performance or behavior in a competitive situation, we find that the number of studies is negligible for cheering (Epting et al., 2011;Salminen, 1993;Strauss, 2002b), jeering (Epting et al., 2011; Social influence of sport spectators Strauss, Staufenbiel, van Meurs, & MacMahon preprint June 30, 2022 -2 nd updated version 26 Greer, 1983) and aggressive behavior (Thirer & Rampey, 1979). On the other hand, although the number of fouls is influenced by spectator behavior, among other things, performance is not. ...
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Social influence has been summarised as the change in one’s beliefs, behaviour, or attitudes due to external pressure that may be real or imagined (Cialdini, 2001). In this chapter, we focus on the question of how (sports-relevant) behaviour and athletic performances are influenced by others, especially active and passive (sports) spectators. You have probably already experienced giving a presentation in front of a group of people. Were you influenced by the presence of your audience? Was your performance better, worse, or unaffected compared to the rehearsal session, when you practised alone? Is your performance influenced differently when the audience listens attentively as opposed to when they are noisily not paying attention? How does this presence of others impact performances and behaviours in the context of sports? In sports, social influence has already been investigated extensively (cf. Epting, Riggs, Knowles, & Hanky, 2011; cf. Strauss, 2002b). A particular interest within social influence research is the home advantage in team sports (Allen & Jones, 2014; Carron, Loughhead, & Bray, 2005). Research in this field is concerned with understanding whether the performance of the home team is better due to more of their fans being in the stadium.
... Sport exposes athletes to perform in front of crowds, and this may affect both individual and team performance, apart from providing excitement for sport enthusiasts (Epting et al., 2011). According to Edwards and Archambault (1989), the presence of spectators during the match, their feedback or the absence of it, can affect sporting performance. ...
... However, Wallace and colleagues (2005) argue that when such instances occur, these can be viewed as being a detrimental experience more than a facilitating one for the footballer, and thus can be viewed as a home disadvantage. Epting et al. (2011) concluded that there was neither an enhancing nor a detrimental effect from cheering, and this is confirmed by other studies (Salminen, 1993;Baumeister & Steinhilber, 1984). In a contrasting view, some researchers (Courneya & Carron, 1992;Waters & Lovell, 2002;Smith, 2003;Inan, 2020) believe that both the athletes and the fans acknowledge that positive support such as cheering from the audience may influence the performance of the home team, indicating an advantage. ...
... In a contrasting view, some researchers (Courneya & Carron, 1992;Waters & Lovell, 2002;Smith, 2003;Inan, 2020) believe that both the athletes and the fans acknowledge that positive support such as cheering from the audience may influence the performance of the home team, indicating an advantage. Additionally, positive support for the home-team might not be a factor of advantage but it might shield from the negative support of the visiting fans which are usually largely outnumbered by the home crowd (Epting et al., 2011). Travel elements, such as distance, direction and crossing time zones were also considered to give an advantage to the teams playing at home in the Australian League (Goumas, 2014) and in the World Cup qualification matches (Pollard & Armatas, 2017). ...
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Audience behaviour is an external factor which could influence an athlete’s performance during a match due to the evaluative attitude which it might convey. One of the most common positive influences on a team’s motivation can be attributed to a supportive and cheering audience. Contrastingly, jeering can be interpreted as negative influence. High emotions exchanged between the spectators and the players may also show the important ties which bind them together, and this can affect the players’ behaviour on the field of play. This study focuses on how crowd behaviour in Maltese football influences the players’ performance in the game. The influence of spectator behaviour on the psychological state of six male national senior football team members and six male national team youth players was analysed through data gathered from individual semi-structured interviews. Results show that both senior and youth players are influenced by variables of audience behaviour and feel pressured and anxious throughout matches. Incentives for positive behaviour need to be introduced, together with sanctions for the breaking of rules, as well as slogans and placards placed in the stands for further awareness need to become the norm. If we are to curb societal issues such as racism and violence, the need for educational strategies is clear.
... Furthermore, being consistently unable to tune out negative feedback may contribute to depression, anxiety, and substance-use disorders, which are the most frequently reported mental health issues among athletes (Reardon et al., 2019). Heightened sensitivity to the opinions of others (Greer, 1983), when combined with frequent exposure to aversive criticism (Epting, Riggs, Knowles & Hanky, 2011), such as on social media (David et al., 2018), is likely to create stress (Sanderson, 2011). In this vein, social media usage has increased in athletes, and there is a growing culture that encourages athletes to express their perspectives on social justice issues (Sanderson, 2018), extending criticism of athletes beyond sport performance (Frederick, Sanderson & Schlereth, 2017). ...
... He did not find any influence of the cheering crowd on the performances during the specified intervals. Using an experimental approach Epting et al. (2011) also did not find any positive effect of cheering on performance accuracy in golf (a golf swing task), basketball (a free-throw task) and baseball (a pitching task) in comparison to a silent condition. However, they registered worst performances in the baseball pitching task after jeering only and in the golf task after jeering or cheering (in comparison to the silence condition). ...
... The "hometeam effect" is the psychological advantage offered to a team when it plays in its own field, with its fans' support, which has a significant positive impact on the team's performance [13]. Athletes in different sports (i.e., basketball, baseball, and golf) show the same behaviour: Positive cheering can improve their performance, while a negative cheering can instead decrease their results and increase the possibility of error [6]. ...
... But, as far as we are aware, this issue has never been investigated. For instance, a supportive audience impacts physiological variables in athletes (e.g., arousal, cardiac performance, Jones et al., 2007) and, at least under certain circumstances, can positively influence the performance of these athletes (Epting et al., 2011;Strauss & MacMahon, 2014). Male cooperation is further influenced by certain components of male sweat (Huoviala & Rantala 2013); thus, involvement of olfactory cues might also contribute to more precise results. ...
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Objectives The male warrior hypothesis suggests that men have evolved psychological mechanisms to form aggressive coalitions against members of outgroups, which may explain men’s propensity to engage in warfare, as well as team sports. We examined gender differences in skin conductivity and attitudes toward war after exposing participants to video imagery depicting sports and war from a sample of young adults from Slovakia. Methods We measured skin conductivity responses using electrodermal activity (EDA) when participants watched three short videos: Football, World War II, and Control. Then, implicit and explicit attitudes toward war and subjective arousal of the three videos were examined using questionnaires. Results Men showed higher maximal skin conductivity when watching a team sport video, compared to a control video. Skin conductivity during a war video did not significantly differ from a sport or control video. In contrast, women showed highest maximal skin conductivity when watching a war video, followed by the sport and control videos, but these differences were not statistically significant. When the videos were subjectively rated by the same participants, men rated team sports and war as similarly arousing, but ratings of these videos were not significantly different for women. Conclusions These results suggest that visual cues of warfare and team sports influence skin conductivity, but we did not find support for the hypothesis that sport is a substitute for war. Because this study was based exclusively on visual cues, we discuss additional possibilities that could influence future investigations.
Die Anwesenheit von Zuschauenden wird grundsätzlich als positiv bewertet. Fragt man Sportlerinnen und Sportler, Trainerinnen und Trainer oder die Zuschauenden selbst, so sind sie davon überzeugt, dass ein jubelndes Publikum einen positiven Einfluss auf die sportliche Leistung hat. Die Fans der Heimmannschaft werden sogar als der 12. Mann bezeichnet. Doch welchen Einfluss haben Zuschauende tatsächlich? Ist der Einfluss immer förderlich für die sportliche Leistung? Und wie lässt sich dieser Einfluss erklären? In diesem Kapitel wird definiert, was Zuschauende eigentlich sind, und es werden verschiedene Erklärungsansätze zum Einfluss von Zuschauenden vorgestellt. Anschließend werden empirische Befunde zur Wirkung von Zuschauenden präsentiert. Es werden zum einen die Ergebnisse der Social-Facilitation-Forschung beschrieben, die den Einfluss untersucht, den die bloße Anwesenheit von Zuschauenden auf die sportliche Leistung hat. Zum anderen werden die Ergebnisse der Heimvorteilforschung dargelegt. Letztere untersucht, welchen Einfluss bestimmte Merkmale von Zuschauenden auf die sportliche Leistung haben.
Motivation is one of the important factors that increase the success of athletes, especially who lift weights. It increases not only the success of the athletes but also influences other notions such as increasing self‐confidence, decreasing anxiety, and improving endurance. Although motivation has a key role in the performance of athletes, most of the athletes may be fully motivated only in competition environments. However, being motivated only in competition environments is not enough for athletes since they spend most of their time in training. If they are motivated in training environments as motivated as in competition environments, they can increase their performance, however, being motivated during training sessions is not easy since there are not enough motivational factors, such as spectators, in training environments. In order to solve this problem, this study aims to increase the motivation levels of powerlifters during training sessions by developing a virtual competition environment. In this environment, the athletes experience a virtual competition environment by using HTC Vive. To understand the efficiency of the virtual environment, it was tested with 32 professional athletes. The findings illustrated that using VR technology was beneficial to increase the level of motivation of powerlifters during training sessions. Motivation is one of the important factors that increase the success of athletes. Most of the athletes may be fully motivated only in competition environments. If there would be a chance to increase their motivation during training sessions, their performance and success may be increased. To achieve this issue, a virtual competition environment was designed by benefiting from VR technology. The findings illustrated that VR technology was beneficial to increase the level of motivation of powerlifters during training sessions.
Many elite sporting codes have imposed severe restrictions on crowd attendance at games to minimise COVID-19 infection risk, which created a rare opportunity to examine the influence of absent crowds on elite sporting performance. This study used a retrospective observational design to investigate the influence of the crowd in the National Rugby League (NRL) by comparing player statistics and Global Positioning System (GPS) metrics between Round 1 (crowds) and Round 2 (no crowd). Data were obtained for 203 professional NRL players. A linear mixed model with a random intercept (Player ID) was used to assess the relationship between crowd removal and match location on performance indicators and GPS metrics. Effect sizes (ES) were also calculated to determine the magnitude of change. The effect of a crowd and match location were trivial to small (ES range: 0.213 to 0.224). Without crowds, performance indicators relating to decoys (p = 0.022), post-contact metres (p = 0.020), tackle breaks (p = 0.035) and missed tackles increased (p = 0.018), whereas supports decreased (p = 0.005). Without crowds, GPS metrics maximal velocity increased (p = 0.027), and acceleration load decreased (p < 0.001). In away games, relative high-speed running increased (p = 0.020). However, it is possible that margin, opponent tactics, and weather could have influenced changes. The findings suggest that NRL players’ performance appears unlikely to be affected by the presence or absence of a crowd.
Der vorliegende Beitrag gibt einen Überblick über die Forschung zum Heimvorteil, der in allen Mannschaftssportarten nachweisbar ist. Die Stärke des Heimvorteils variiert allerdings erheblich und hängt maßgeblich von der betrachteten Sportart, dem betreffenden Land und Liga, dem Zeitpunkt der Betrachtung (im Längsschnitt), (vermutlich) dem Geschlecht der Akteure und von der Leistungsstärke der beteiligten Mannschaften ab. In diesem Kapitel werden die wichtigsten Gründe für den Heimvorteil und seine Variationen diskutiert. Trotz langjähriger Forschung sind diese Gründe allerdings noch nicht zufriedenstellend aufgeklärt. U. a. kann die weithin verbreitete Auffassung, dass Zuschauer und Schiedsrichter den Heimvorteil verursachen, bislang nicht überzeugend empirisch bestätigt werden und es wird diskutiert, dass vielmehr die sozial-kognitiven Prozesse intensiver untersucht werden sollten. Dieser Beitrag ist Teil der Sektion Sportpsychologie, herausgegeben vom Teilherausgeber Dieter Hackfort, innerhalb des Handbuchs Sport und Sportwissenschaft, herausgegeben von Arne Güllich und Michael Krüger.
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This field study examines the widespread belief that spectators influence sports performance. It is one of the very few field studies in sports psychology that relates the behavior of spectators to the performance of an American football team. The team is a member of the German premier league based in Kiel. Sports performance and spectator behavior were recorded simultaneously with video cameras during four home games and then judged by raters. Spectator behavior (support vs. no support) was observed before and during each down (or play). Performance within each down was rated as positive or negative. Results of a hierarchical log-linear analysis of the total of 631 downs gave no indications that supportive spectator behavior such as cheering before a down had any influence on subsequent performance. There were only signs of spectators reacting in line with prior performance. This finding contradicts the general belief that spectators' cheering encourages better performance in a home team.
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This investigation confirms the existence of a home advantage in organized sports; however, it refines and extends that knowledge in a number of ways. The home advantage is most pronounced in the indoor sports of ice hockey and basketball; least so, in the outdoor sports of baseball and football. More effective offensive rather than defensive action is the major factor in the home advantage among all sports. Playing at home or away from home is as strong a correlate of a team's performance as is the average quality of its players. Finally, inferences from the data, as well as more direct observations on audience size and its relationship to performance and outcome, justify the conclusion that the home advantage is almost totally independent of visitor fatigue and lack of familiarity with the home playing area; it is mainly attributable to the social support of the home audience.
A home advantage in sport competitions has been well documented. The strength and consistency of the home advantage has made it a popular phenomenon in sport today. Very little systematic research has been carried out, however, and the home advantage remains one of the least understood phenomena in sport. It appears that much of the game location research has been arbitrary, and a clear sense of direction is lacking. The purpose of the present paper is to provide a conceptual framework to organize a comprehensive review of previous game location research and provide direction for future research. The review of literature indicated that the descriptive phase of inquiry has been completed, and it is time to address the underlying mechanisms responsible for the manifestation of the home advantage. Possible methodologies and areas of inquiry are highlighted and discussed.
According to a social psychological model for the home advantage, a supportive audience encourages the home team to play up to potential, while an unsupportive audience has the opposite effect. The audience's biased behavior results in an increase in penalties on the visiting team. The model was tested by conducting a content analysis of 56 matches shown on Finnish television between July 1984 and March 1986. The content analysis of each match registered the audience's clear reactions ( N = 126), goals, and penalties over a 5-minute playing time. The results did not confirm our theoretical model. When the audience supported the home team, the team scored more points and made more fouls than the visiting team. At the same time, the home team also scored more points when the audience supported the visiting team.
A solution is suggested for an old unresolved social psychological problem.
In a quasi-experimental field study one possible social origin of the home advantage (HA) in sports was examined. College basketball games were attended by investigators who used a behavior observation technique to isolate blocks of game time immediately following instances of sustained spectator protest. For both home and visiting teams four measures of performance occurring during these "postbooing" periods were compared with performance during normal crowd conditions. Analyses of variance on scoring, turnover, foul, and composite performance rates revealed that episodes of spectator protest were related to an increase in the performance advantages enjoyed by home teams. Subsequent to crowd protest there were slight improvements in the performance indicators of home teams, paralleled by more significant declines for visiting teams. These declines were statiscally significant for two of the four dependent variables-fouls committed, and composite performance. Two competing interpretations of these results were considered at length, and the conclusion that crowd noise had inhibited the performance quality of visiting teams was favored over the alternative interpretation that the judgment of game referees had been influenced. In either case, the data, appeared to be consistent with the belief that collective protest by sports crowds is an effective type of social support which can contribute significantly to the HA.