When people think about how scientists can help them be better at sports, they're probably thinking about what cocktail of steroids they can take that won't show up on a urine test. After all, what else can a bunch of four-eyed nerds tell you about sports? Well, if you can fight the urge to pull their underwear over their heads, those eggheads might just have some (legal) tips for you, such as ...
7 Believing Positive Stereotypes Improves Performance (When Nobody Is Looking)
Sports are rife with harmful stereotypes -- just ask Jeremy Lin what it's like being a Chinese-American playing professional basketball. Unsurprisingly, negative stereotypes and the pressure that comes with them have been shown to hinder athletic performance. With that in mind, researchers decided to turn things around and see whether "positive" stereotypes had the opposite effect.
"Your ethnicity has traditionally been successful in the U.S.!"
In the experiment, white male basketball players watched one of three videos -- one depicting white players as the best free throwers in the NBA, one depicting black players as the best, and one that was completely neutral. The first was supposed to represent a positive stereotype to reinforce that apparently white men can jump after all.
Next, the players were asked to shoot some free throws, wherein half of them were videotaped and the other half were not. The results showed that the players who had been exposed to the positive stereotype performed better, but only if there wasn't any camera. So apparently, they only really believed in themselves as long as nobody was watching.
"OK, everyone turn around for a second."
So we guess the problem is, as interesting as the effect may be, working yourself up with positive stereotypes before the big game probably won't help you much unless you ask the entire audience to close their eyes the whole time.
6 You Train Better Under Bright Lights
If you're the kind who wakes up before sunrise to train for that big game, new research shows that you may be going about things in entirely the wrong way. If you really want to give your body an athletic boost (and avoid vampire attacks during training), then you should shine some light on the situation.
It's not resisting arrest, it's cardio.
Researchers who wanted to investigate the effect of light on athletic performance exposed some test subjects to low light or bright light for 160 minutes. During the last 40 minutes of the exposure time, the students had to cycle as fast as they could while their pulse, oxygen consumption, and lactate value were monitored. The results revealed that the subjects who were exposed to bright light performed better than those who were exposed to dimmer light.
It turns out that the amount of light you're exposed to has all kinds of effects on your body that you don't notice; namely, it helps regulate your circadian rhythm -- your sleep cycle. No matter how many Red Bulls you slam down, it's the amount of light you're exposed to that tells your body it's time to wake up and start doing shit. When there's no light, it doesn't matter how many pushups you're tearing through -- as far as your body is concerned, it's time to go back to bed and put in a few more hours of shut-eye. This is why the best athletes spend 10 to 15 hours every day staring at the sun, and also why most blind people are terrible at basketball.
They are phenomenal marksmen, however.