Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Perceiving Yourself as an Underdog Really Can Enhance Performance

Source: Wikimedia
We've all heard professional athletes "feed off" of the desire to prove others wrong.  They cast themselves as underdogs who have been written off by the experts and the pundits, and then they profess to be highly motivated to challenge the doubters.   +Here in New England, we have seen Tom Brady constantly talk about how we had to fight to become the starter at the University of Michigan, and how he was just a 6th round draft pick and 4th string quarterback when he entered the National Football League. Is the underdog effect real? Does it actually help or hurt to perceive oneself as an underdog? Samir Nurmohamed of the Wharton School has published a new study in the Academy of Management Journal about how our self-perceptions affect our performance. The paper is titled, "The Underdog Effect: When Low Expectations Increase Performance." 

Nurmohamed conducts a series of studies to examine the underdog effect.   Interestingly, perceiving oneself as the underdog doesn't always help us.  Nurmohamed finds that underdog expectations can have a beneficial impact on performance.   However, the research shows that it depends on the perceived credibility of those observing and judging one's abilities.   If the outsiders' credibility is high, then underdog expectations have a negative impact on performance.  However, when outsiders' credibility is perceived as low, then underdog expectations have a positive effect on one's performance.  

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