Honors Project - Open Access
Trailing in sports is associated with losing, but can trailing operate as a powerful motivator that leads to winning? Based on research by Berger and Pope (2011), this study applies Prospect Theory and loss aversion to football to test if trailing by a small margin can motivate success. This relationship is analyzed based on teams’ point differentials at halftime since halftime operates as a salient reference point and a time for teams to regroup and strategize. Analysis of over 12,000 NFL games found no significant effect of trailing at halftime on the likelihood of winning. That is, there is little evidence that Berger and Pope’s (2011) finding for a motivational effect of losing in basketball exists in football. I offer several reasons why key differences between football and basketball may account for the null result in football and suggest that future research is needed in prospect theory’s application to football on a play-by-play basis.
Sohrabi, Kian R., "An Application of Prospect Theory: The Effect of Trailing at Halftime on Winning NFL Games" (2022). Economics Honors Projects. 113.
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