I wish I knew why I sometimes engage in superstitious behaviours while playing golf. When I play I am interested in psychological phenomena such as self-handicapping, the attributions people make on the course and how a round can deteriorate after a bad shot or hole (I note the latter from considerable personal experience!). I also try to apply psychological techniques such as imagery to improve my score although I tend to do this more at crucial times, such as before a pressure drive. While I appreciate that carrying the same amount of tees in my pocket during a round will not help me play better, or the action of always marking my golf ball on the green with a coin placed “heads-up” will not influence the outcome (making the putt), I will probably continue to resort to such behaviours as if I was one of Skinner’s pigeons.
David Lavallee is Professor of Psychology and Head of Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University in Wales. He is also an Associate Fellow and Chartered Psychologist of the British Psychological Society, and founding editor of Sport & Exercise Psychology Review.
Return to menu for One Nagging Thing.