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.