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The Sports Psychologists Are At It Again

This post was inspired by an attention-grabbing tweet I read recently, namely: "It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the sports psychologists are at it again".


The story behind this tweet was that in an attempt to secure a competitive advantage, the English professional soccer club, Norwich City has painted the walls of the opposition changing (locker) room pink in the belief that this will lower the testosterone levels of their opponents.


Now I must confess that the main reason for my interest in this story is that my team Leeds United were about to play at Norwich City. Indeed, aware of Norwich's cunning psychological warfare, Leeds United posted this irreverent tweet prior to the game.






It turns out that Norwich City aren't the first sports team to try this.



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My personal interest in this story aside, I think that this is a useful topic for psychology instructors to explore.


Public Perception of Psychology.


There was a great deal of media interest in this story, however, the nature of the coverage concerned me. It was not only 'pop' psychology but in many cases, it was also pseudo-psychology. Media coverage would often include reference to reaching out to a 'psychologist' for comment and while there was the odd mention of the science underpinning the idea, this was very much the exception.


Even a cursory glance at the published literature on the topic quickly reveals that the thinking behind pink as competitive advantage dates back to the late 1970's when research indicated that prison inmates were calmer when incarcerated in pink cells compared to white....


However, attempts to replicate these findings have failed and as such there is very little, if any credible scientific evidence to support the idea that painting your opponent’s locker room pink offers a competitive advantage.


As psychology educators we want our students to become reflective practitioners and effective communicators. Stories like this provide an excellent opportunity for them to practice being both.


Case Study Activity:


Provide your students with the background to the Norwich City story.


Tell them that a media outlet has contacted them for their expert opinion.


What would they say? Do they think painting an opponent’s locker room pink is a good idea? What scientific evidence would they draw upon to help inform their opinion?