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Postcards from Scotland

Scoring goals comes from having the right stereotype

It?s 2004 and England is playing France in the European finals. David Beckham is to take the crucial penalty shot which will determine England?s success. The stadium is still with anticipation. He shoots and he misses. This is Beckham?s third penalty mistake in succession. The crowd are devastated but, hey, they could have predicted the miss.

British footballers are notoriously bad at penalty shoot outs during world tournaments, it is not only David Beckham, and often the public put this down to a lack of ability.  However, according to researchers from the University of St Andrews the poor performance is NOT due to a lack of ability but is a direct result of stereotyping: we believe that our players are inherently bad at penalty shoot outs and this stereotype influences player?s performance.  David Beckham?s failed penalty shoot out, for example, then proves this stereotype.
Stereotypes are not all bad though, Germany, for example, seem to benefit from the stereotype which is that they are good at taking penalty kicks.  In fact the researchers say that with the right stereotype people can start succeeding not only at penalty shoot outs, but in other areas of performance too.
The recent article in Scientific American Mind co authored by St Andrews University professor, Stephen Reicher, shows how and why stereotypes can help or hinder performance in various different groups of people from females mathematicians and elderly folk to golfers and psychologists.  To read the article click here


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