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Prog Brain Res. 2009;174:13-24. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(09)01302-8.

On the relativity of athletic performance: a comparison perspective on performance judgments in sports.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany.


Identifying the best performance at a specific point in time constitutes the central purpose of all competitive sports. In many sports, this decision is based on subjective performance judgments. In the present chapter, we consider how these judgments are formed by emphasizing the relative nature of person judgments and athletic performance judgments in particular. Specifically, we argue that athletic judgments are influenced by comparisons with prior performances thereby leading to similar judgmental consequences as have been observed in other comparison domains (e.g., social comparison). Particularly, we demonstrate that performance judgments are assimilated to judgments of the preceding performance if judges focus on similarities between the two. If judges focus on differences, however, contrast ensues. Strategies for preventing or correcting this judgmental bias are discussed.

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