If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you may have noticed some athletes engage in certain pre-competition rituals. For example, sprinter Usain Bolt always points to the sky. Why?
An article on the Quartz website written by Olivia Goldhill (http://qz.com/757757/athletes-who-wear-lucky-socks-arent-wrong-psychologists-say-superstitions-yield-real-advantages/) tries to answer that question. So much of what athletes undergo is beyond their control, like there can be a long lull between warming up and the actual event. A ritual can give an athlete at least the illusion of some control over the outcome. It can provide a calming effect, the same as developing a superstition concerning the parts of your life you can feel helpless about, like a job interview. And the greater the reward, the more important the ritual. If it’s the Olympic finals, following the same routine can give an athlete a sense of confidence; no need to change something that seems to be working. And if the winner is decided by milliseconds,….
Psychologists call this a “locus of control”. [See How Your ‘Locus of Control’ Drives Your Success (http://www.businessinsider.com/proactive-people-are-successful-and-less-stressed-2014-7)] With an internal locus of control, you feel like you’re more in charge. Thus a ritual can help shift that locus from external (relying on outside forces like a deity) to the result being more up to you.
Personally, I’m very careful about what I wear before a running event, but I don’t do anything that borders on superstition or a preparation ritual. Maybe that’s why I’ve never qualified for the Olympics.
Photo: Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images, copied from “Science of Us” website, Aug 15, 2015. View it and the original article at http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/08/weird-olympic-athlete-rituals-do-work.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Science%20of%20Us%20-%20August%2016%2C%202016&utm_term=Subscription%20List%20-%20Science%20of%20Us%20%281%20Year%29