Choking under pressure in front of a supportive audience : evidence from professional biathlon
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 2019, 166 246-262. 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.09.001
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.