Pan and Houser on Wired.com

Feature Story, News | April 22, 2011

Xiaofei (Sophia) Pan and Daniel Houser are featured in Wired.com’s Playbook sports blog on their latest research on co-operative behavior.
Wired.com sports blogger Brian Mossop uses findings from Pan’ and Houser’s new paper Competition for Trophies Triggers Male Generosity (published in PLoS ONE) to dig deeper into the tradition of helmet stickers in college football.

“What seemed like a simple nod of recognition has now become a time-honored tradition. In all, 22 Division I FBS teams currently use helmet-sticker rewards. Yet these decorations are much more than small tokens of thanks. They embody a rite of passage, with a player’s status among his teammates measured by how heavily adorned in stickers his helmet becomes during the course of a season.

Now, a study published this month in the online journal PLoS ONE, has given a fresh perspective on this practice: When small rewards become visible trophies of status within a group, male players change their approach in competition, sacrificing their own best interest to serve the needs of the team.

If these results extrapolate to competitive sports, it’s possible that helmet stickers could be subconsciously driving players toward team behavior through deeply rooted psychological mechanisms.”

Read the full post at the Playbook and visit the ICES News page for an abstract of the Pan and Houser paper.

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