When odds are even, rival footballers become animals, scientist say
FOOTBALLERS can behave like animals when opposing teams are closely matched, psychologists say.
Levels of aggression and violence appear to go up if both sides rank about the same in terms of competitive ability. Similarly, conflicts between two warring animals are more likely to result in injury when each has the same chance of winning.
Scientists tested the theory that “resource holding potential” (RHP) – the perceived ability to win a contest – can affect what happens in football matches and basketball games. Conflict escalation was measured by numbers of fouls committed.
Analysis of results from the German first division, the Bundesliga, confirmed that when two closely matched teams met, the foul rate increased.
The findings are reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
Researchers led by Gert Stulp, from the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, wrote: “Conflicts between animals escalate more when individual competitors are more similar in RHP.
“The origin of sport probably lies in the fact that individuals could develop skills needed in hunting and warfare, and the most popular modern sports require the specific skills needed for success in physical competition and hunting.
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