There’s no denying that psychology is a huge part of sports. Indeed, it sometimes seems as though athletes, spectators, and even referees are just pawns in a giant psychological experiment. Here are nine common actions from players and fans alike that, although odd on the face of it, actually have a legitimate explanation from sports psychology.
1. Why you can’t ditch that lucky baseball cap
In sports, psychologist B.F. Skinner’s operative conditioning has its own name – superstitious conditioning. It sounds fancy, but the term can be seen in action any time an enthusiastic sports fan insists on wearing their “lucky” hat for a game, refuses to wash a jersey after it’s been worn during a win, and so on.
However misguided, the thinking behind such actions is dictated by a past event, wherein the clothing item is associated with a particularly consequential outcome such as winning or losing a game.