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Can Losing Leads to Winning?

Jonah A. Berger

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

September 15, 2009

Can losing during a competitive task motivate individuals and teams to exert greater effort and perform better overall? Analysis of over 45,000 collegiate and 18,000 professional basketball games illustrates that being slightly behind at halftime leads to a discontinuous increase in winning percentage. Teams that are losing by a small amount win approximately 2 (NCAA) and 6 (NBA) percentage points more often than expected. In the NBA, this psychological effect is roughly half the size of the proverbial home-team advantage. Additional experimental evidence corroborates the field test and casts doubt on alternative explanations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Competition, Motivation, Performance

JEL Classification: M2, M31

working papers series

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Date posted: November 24, 2008 ; Last revised: January 4, 2012

Suggested Citation

Berger, Jonah A. and Pope, Devin G., Can Losing Leads to Winning? (September 15, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1305316 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1305316

Contact Information

Jonah A. Berger (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )
700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Devin G. Pope
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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