‘Win at all costs’ a recipe for failure

Kids playing footballCoaching young athletes to enjoy their development rather than focusing on winning at all costs reduces the risk of burnout, according to research.

Victoria University Institute of Sport, Exercise & Active Living researcher Thomas Curran said athletes’ passion for their sport took one of two forms: ‘harmonious passion’, where the drive for success is not all-consuming, and comes from a place of want rather than need; and ‘obsessive passion’, where the drive for success is all-consuming and comes from a place of need rather than want.

Find the original article here, and the scientific paper here or read on.

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Posted in Football, Science General, Sport Science

Yes, you can tell from his face what your dog is feeling



People can reliably read a dog’s facial expressions, suggesting humans are finely tuned to detect emotions even in other creatures. Behavioral scientists have long known that people can accurately read other humans’ emotions, but this study suggests our empathy extends to other members of the animal kingdom.

While a Ph.D student at Walden University in Florida, Tina Bloom worked with Harris Friedman and a dog named Mal at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Mal, a 5-year-old Belgian shepherd and trained police dog, was subjected to a variety of stimuli, and the researchers took pictures of his reactions.

For instance, in one experiment the researchers praised him, trying to elicit a happy reaction; Mal looked at the camera with his ears erect and tongue lolling. Then they reprimanded him, and Mal’s ears flattened, he looked down and his eyes became mournful. They used a jack-in-the-box to surprise him; foul-tasting medicine to disgust him; nail trimmers to strike fear into his heart; and so on. One of the researchers even pretended to be a criminal, and Mal got angry. Then the team showed 50 volunteers photographs of these reactions, and asked them to categorize his emotions.

Read an article about here. Or read on … Read more ›

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Posted in Joint Action, Science General

Team membership boosts performance

Team Huddle

It is well documented that competition can affect performance and emotion in sport. However, our understanding of the comparative effects of individual and team competitions on performance and emotion is limited.

We also know little about emotion-based mechanisms underlying the effects of different types of competition on performance.

A study involved 64 participants completing a handgrip endurance task during time-trial, one-on-one, two-on-two and four-on-four competitions while self-report and possible corroborative physiological measures of enjoyment, anxiety and effort were assessed.

Results indicated that performance, enjoyment, anxiety and effort were greater in team competitions than in individual events. It was also concluded that the observed increases in performance were mediated by increased enjoyment and effort.

Read the published findings here. Or an article on it here, or read on. Read more ›

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Posted in Football, Science General, Sport Science

An environmental approach to creativity

Where good ideas come from – and what happens when ideas have sex!

What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well they’re cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.
Matt Ridley

An idea is a network at the most elemental level. An idea — a new idea — is a new network of neurons firing in sync with each other inside your brain. It’s a new configuration that has never formed before. And the question is: how do you get your brain into environments where these new networks are going to be more likely to form? And it turns out that, in fact, the kind of network patterns of the outside world mimic a lot of the network patterns of the internal world of the human brain.
Steven Johnson

Watch these TED Talks which propose some interesting ideas about the environmental influences on ideas, creativity, and innovation – one of which is a good reason for having a coffee – one of my other favourite activities! Author Steven Johnson takes us on a tour past some historic events to explain how the environments that we create and surround ourselves with are very important in forming the ideas and innovations that we come up with.


I’m not sure whether I think Steven Johnson puts enough emphasis on the interaction between people and their environments yet, but it is an enjoyable and interesting watch nonetheless. One person who does emphasise interaction and in particular ‘exchange’ is Matt Ridley. He explains how cultural evolution, innovation and creativity are like biological evolution in the sense that they share exchange – in short, ideas have sex! To my liking his focus very much emphasises interaction in the social environment and, again, like Steven Johnson, not enough yet on the interaction between people and their environments in general.


Anyway, I’m off to the coffeehouse now!

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Posted in Ecological Psychology, My own research, Science General

Emotions In Sports Are Expressed By Whole Bodies, Not Only By Facial Expressions

If you think that you can judge by examining someone’s facial expressions if he has just hit the jackpot in the lottery or lost everything in the stock market — think again. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at New York University and Princeton University have discovered that — despite what leading theoretical models and conventional wisdom might indicate — it just doesn’t work that way.


Rather, they found that body language provides a better cue in trying to judge whether an observed subject has undergone strong positive or negative experiences.

Examples of original images of players (1) losing or (2) winning a point. The same faces combined with incongruent-valence bodies such as (3) a losing face on a winning body and (4) a winning face on a losing body. [All photos credited to a.s.a.p. Creative/Reuters]

Examples of original images of players (1) losing or (2) winning a point. The same faces combined with incongruent-valence bodies such as (3) a losing face on a winning body and (4) a winning face on a losing body. [All photos credited to a.s.a.p. Creative/Reuters]

In a study published this week in the journal Science, the researchers present data showing that viewers in test groups were baffled when shown photographs of people who were undergoing real-life, highly intense positive and negative experiences. When the viewers were asked to judge the emotional valences of the faces they were shown (that is, the positivity or negativity of the faces), their guesses fell within the realm of chance.

The study was led by Dr. Hillel Aviezer of the Psychology Department of the Hebrew University, together with Dr. Yaacov Trope of New York University and Dr. Alexander Todorov of Princeton University.

For the popular science (SciencesDaily) read here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129143314.htm
For the article in Science Magazine read here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6111/1225.abstract

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Posted in Science General, Sport Science

Oxytocin as Sports Enhancer

Is playing football like falling in love? That question, which would perhaps not occur to most of us watching hours of the bruising game this holiday season, is the focus of a provocative and growing body of new science examining the role of oxytocin in competitive sports.

Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, right, celebrates after scoring a goal against Denmark during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Milan in October.

Until recently, though, scientists had not considered whether a substance that promotes cuddliness and warm, intimate bonding might also play a role in competitive sports.

But the idea makes sense, says Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the Center for Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the author of a new review of oxytocin and competition. “Being part of a team involves emotions, as for instance when a team scores, and these emotions are associated with brain chemicals.”

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS for the New York Times.

Read more here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/21/the-love-hormone-as-sports-enhancer/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444846/

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Posted in Football, Joint Action, My own research, Science General, Sport Science

Does Empathy Score in Football?

When you need to perform, emotions either help you, or they throw a spanner in the works. Just ask Arjen Robben who missed a penalty in the final of the Champions League in May. Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane Australia, explores how emotions influence our perceptions and actions. How relevant is empathy in sport?

Pre-match huddle

A pre-match huddle of the Ireland team in their game against Spain during Euro 2012.

By Margriet Bos. For the whole article (in Dutch) click here.

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Posted in Football, My own research, Science General, Sport Science