Football fan aggression: the importance of low basal cortisol and a fair referee

L. van der Meij, F. Klauke, H.L. Moore, Y.S. Ludwig, M. Almela, P.A.M. van Lange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Fan aggression in football (soccer) is a societal problem that affects many countries worldwide. However, to date, most studies use an epidemiological or survey approach to explain football fan aggression. This study used a controlled laboratory study to advance a model of predictors for fan aggression. To do so, football fans (n = 74) saw a match summary in which their favorite team lost against their most important rival. Next, we measured levels of aggression with the hot sauce paradigm, in which fans were given the opportunity to administer a sample of hot sauce that a rival football supporter had to consume. To investigate if media exposure had the ability to reduce aggression, before the match fans saw a video in which fans of the rival team commented in a neutral, negative, or positive manner on their favorite team. Results showed that the media exposure did not affect aggression. However, participants displayed high levels of aggression and anger after having watched the match. Also, aggression was higher in fans with lower basal cortisol levels, which suggests that part of the aggression displayed was proactive and related to anti-social behavior. Furthermore, aggression was higher when the referee was blamed and aggression was lower when the performance of the participants' favorite team was blamed for the match result. These results indicate that aggression increased when the match result was perceived as unfair. Interventions that aim to reduce football fan aggression should give special attention to the perceived fairness of the match result.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0120103
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

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