Do Expectations Affect Athletes’ Performance?

Someone who plays a sport and his constantly toted as the star player on their team always tends to perform at a higher level than the other players on the team.  This is probably largely due to talent, but I feel as though being told “we’re counting on you” and “you are our best player” can create a self – fulfilling prophecy with that person, helping them perform better.  If that player were to go play on a different team with completely different players who didn’t necessarily see them in the same light as their previous teammates, wouldn’t that player be more prone to underperforming? Even if the team two different teams were very similar, I feel like that person would perform better on the team were he was told he was the best rather than the team where he received less recognition.  I always thought it would be interesting to run a study wear people were assigned different roles like “Star player” or “Worst player,” “rides the bench” and see how performance is affected.  Do you think that self – fulfilling prophecy is just as common in a situation like this one as it might be in situations regarding race?

3 thoughts on “Do Expectations Affect Athletes’ Performance?”

  1. I think self-fulfilling prophecy and, to a lesser extent, stereotype threat can be applied in the situations you described above and can be used in other places outside of race. I don’t think, however, that applying stereotype threat to an athlete who gets high accolades for his talent in one sport and falters without it in another is nearly the same as how stereotype threat affects people of color. That athlete will always have the support of their original team and they will be looked at positively by them but when you compare that to a Black person getting on an elevator occupied by a white woman and her clutching her purse because she fears they will rob her, it is totally different. There are no positive accolades for them. There is no out in another sport, it’s their everyday harsh reality.

  2. It’s definitely interesting to think about the effects of race on sports, and vice versa. My comment might be a bit unrelated, but you reminded me of something Professor Justin Rose, a black professor who was one of Muhlenberg’s diversity fellows last year, said during his speech at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. If I remember correctly, he said that white students said he was too rough when he was playing basketball with them. He said that he wasn’t playing any more aggressively than they were, but he did what they wanted anyway. Likely, this was a result of the stereotypical association between blacks and aggression that we have discussed.

  3. I think self-fulfilling prophecy can be applied to a lot of different situations. If I think a friend is angry with me and I tell her something or explain myself defensively, they will probably respond to me defensively, too. But if I respond to my friend openly and be unassuming, they will probably do the same. However, I think self-fulfilling prophecy has larger implications when it’s related to racism because it informs overarching stereotypes and opinions whereas individual situations, like my example, exist on a much smaller scale.

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