Nationalism in Winter Sports Judging and its Lessons for Organizational Decision Making

Stanford GSB Research Paper No. 1796

50 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2002

Date Written: October 2002


This paper exploits nationalistic biases in Olympic winter sport judging to study the problem of designing a decision making process that uses the input of potentially biased agents. Judges score athletes from their own countries higher than other judges do, and they appear to vary their biases strategically in response to the stakes, the scrutiny given the event, and the degree of subjectiveness of the performance aspect being scored. Ski jumping judges display a taste for fairness in that they compensate for the nationalistic biases of other panel members, while figure skating judges appear to engage in vote trading and bloc judging. Career concerns create incentives for judges: biased judges are less likely to be chosen to judge the Olympics in ski jumping but more likely in figure skating; this is consistent with judges being chosen centrally in ski jumping and by national federations in figure skating. The sports truncate extreme scores to different degrees; both ski jumping and, especially, figure skating are shown to truncate too aggressively; this may contribute to the vote trading in figure skating. These findings have implications for both the current proposals for reforming the judging of figure skating and for designing decision making in organizations more generally.

JEL Classification: D7, D8, L83

Suggested Citation

Zitzewitz, Eric W., Nationalism in Winter Sports Judging and its Lessons for Organizational Decision Making (October 2002). Stanford GSB Research Paper No. 1796, Available at SSRN: or

Eric W. Zitzewitz (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2891 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)


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