Psychological momentum in contests: The case of scoring before half-time in football

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Journal Article
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2018, 149 pp. 137 - 168
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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. We study the existence of a psychological momentum commonly believed to exist in a real world contest: the effect of scoring just before half-time in association football (soccer). Using high quality data on football matches, we isolate a quasi-experimental situation to identify the effect of scoring on later performance. We carefully select shots toward the goal, taken from a similar location on the pitch, which landed on the goal posts. Using the non-goal shots as conterfactuals to the scoring shots, we estimate the causal effect of scoring at different times in the first half. We do not find any evidence of an effect of scoring before half-time. This result contributes to the debate on whether psychological momentum exists in contests.
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