Whether your sport is running, swimming, or competitive handgrip exercises, you may do your best when a team is counting on you.
Runner’s World reported today on a new British study that takes on the question of team versus individual performance and the role of emotion in competition. The researchers from Bangor University in Gwynedd, Wales found that competing as part of a team produced the strongest performances.
“Results indicated that performance, enjoyment, anxiety, and effort increased from individual to team competitions,” they concluded.
The study’s 64 participants completed a “handgrip endurance task” in individual time trials and in competition. Each participant competed in one-on-one, two-on-two, and four-on-four events, sparking the interest of an International Olympic Committee desperate to inject some youth appeal into the Summer Games.
The competitors self-reported on their enjoyment, anxiety and effort after each contest, and the scientists monitored heart rate, muscle activity, and other physiological factors.
In what The Active Times hereby dubs the “bringing it” effect, the participants raised their effort and performance levels from time trial to one-on-one competition, and then again from one-on-one to two-on-two. But when they hit four-on-four play, the effect leveled out due to what the researchers suspect to be “social loafing,” which is a polite way of saying slacking.
The participants also experienced heightened emotions as the number of competitors increased, feeling both more joyous and more anxious, possibly due to a combination of camaraderie and fear of letting their teammates down.
Emotion tracked closely enough with cardiovascular performance that the researchers believe it could have driven the increase.
Or, as the Bee Gees put it in their unwitting sports anthem, “It’s just emotion that’s takin’ me over.”