The Haunted Golf Club

A number of you sent me the link to a study just published on the effects on performance after telling golfers that the club they are using was previously owned by a pro-golfer. The study by Charles Lee & Sally Linkenauger, published in PLoS ONE asked students who were avid golfers to putt using a club they were told belonged to ace golfer Ben Curtis. Their performance was superior to a matched group of students who were told that the same club was simply “a really nice putter.” The article goes on to consider several issues related to confidence in sports performance and even mentions an interview with Paul Rozin who of course, brings up positive contagion effects.

I expect many readers are saying,”So what? It is simply association and positive thinking.” This is always a problem when discussing essentialism and contagion effects. Hopefully in the new year we should have some research ready for publication that speaks directly to the “So what, its association” put-down of these findings but for the moment, I am grateful to those of you who sent me this as I have very little time to scan the media for worthy stories at the moment. Must dash!


Filed under Essentialism, In the News

4 responses to “The Haunted Golf Club

  1. Rox

    You could use this the other way too, for example, by telling an opposing team that a team using their changing room on the third Saturday in the month has always lost. Of course, armies have been told in Africa that they have been made immune to bullets, and bestowing armies with divine blessings is far from being a new or uncommon technique. So looked at broadly, the discovery is not all that unexpected.

    • brucehood

      Good point and I predict that the effect would be greater according to the literature as negative contagion is more potent than positive.

  2. Rox

    “negative contagion is more potent than positive.”

    One might suggest that it is simply a lot easier to do worse than your very best than better than your very best.

    In the case of the armies, “negative” and “positive” reveal themselves for the subjective terms they usually are. What is positive for the government or emperor is negative for the individual soldiers, at least for the first ones involved. So the positive effect of winning the battle turns out to be negative for the soldiers who were persuaded not to do their best to defend themselves (since God or the witch-doctor was taking care of that for them).

  3. Rox

    On the other hand, if the carefree soldiers behave wildly enough with confident enthusiasm, putting the fear of God into the opposition, and provided the weapons aimed against them are not overwhelmingly capable of wiping them out, they might get away with it.

    Sorry, this is getting a long way from your golf club.

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