The power of crowds

By | Science & Technology
Gillette stadium Foxborough, USA.Credit@flickruser:Joscarfas.jpg

New research verifies the power of crowds and the circumstances when this influence may occur. How social influence affects refereeing decisions has been further delineated. The team also propose suggestions on how fans and referees may benefit from this knowledge.

Football fans may intuitively sense a home team has an advantage, however what this advantage actually is may be beyond comprehension. If an individual has experienced being part of a large crowd it may be perceived how a game is influenced for the benefit of the larger set of supporters. The influence of crowd noise is well documented with previous research suggesting it may influence refereeing decisions. A frequent observation in some leagues is significantly fewer free kicks awarded to the home team, which has been tested experimentally in comparison to when decisions are made in silence. An explanation may be the referee wants to evade crowd animosity which might be directed at the referees.

The size of a crowd may also be a predictor of how a game may play out. Some studies have shown how the chance of a home team receiving a yellow card decreases as the crowd size increases, giving a significant advantage for clubs with big stadiums.

Aiming to clarify these previous discrepancies, a new study by Picazo-Tadeo and colleagues aimed to discover how the crowd influenced the decisions of a referee and what the main factors were in this. Looking at data between the 2002 and 2010, the team analysed free kicks awarded, the number of players booked and in what circumstances key decisions were made. The interaction of the two elements; free kicks and cards shown were considered contingent by the team, the hypothesis being the number of cards presented may be the factor influenced by the crowd. The key finding — and contrary to some previous research, — was when free kicks are awarded referees are more likely to award cards to away teams.

This research illuminate’s the cooperative effect of crowds, if a bias is absent initially in the awarding of a free kick, the crowd may influence a harsher discipline for the player committing the foul. In the data over the entire 8 seasons an insignificant difference was seen in the number of free kicks given to home or away teams, the inexistence of home bias occurs in this domain. The findings also support the idea of how larger crowds may have more influence over refereeing decisions, although a possible explanation is crowds in some nations may influence the referee differently.

How the crowd veritably influences these specific decisions has additionally been a focus of research. Many approaches are enacted by a crowd which may influence a referee including intimidating the referee and accentuating new information. Another practical explanation is referees make decisions automatically and when time is taken to deliberate in this period, the official may then be influenced by the crowd. The referee may associate the severity of a foul with the noise and reaction of the crowd, thereby unintentionally favouring a home team.

The team have suggestions for fans and referees in how to approach a game. Fans may be advised to overemphasis noise and reactions after a foul when an important period for the referee making a decision exists and social influence may have greater productivity. For referees an understanding of how crowds may influence the decisions made may be a wise choice if the individual aims to be more accurate in decision making. The training of referees might focus on educating on how automatic judgments have increased accuracy statistically, learning how deliberating may lead to bias and how acquiring knowledge of multiple cues may be possible. Moreover, gaining alternative skills to avert the undesired influence of players, coaches or fans may also be advisable for professional referees.

How may an individual supersede the influence of social demand and develop accurate and original responses?


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