Does Losing Lead to Winning? An Empirical Analysis for Four Sports

Bouke Klein Teeselink*, Martijn J. van den Assem, Dennie van Dolder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Berger and Pope (2011) show that being slightly behind increases the likelihood of winning in professional (National Basketball Association; NBA) and collegiate (National Collegiate Athletic Association; NCAA) basketball. We extend their analysis to large samples of Australian football, American football, and rugby matches, but find no evidence of such an effect for these three sports. When we revisit the phenomenon for basketball, we only find supportive evidence for NBA matches from the period analyzed in Berger and Pope (2011). There is no significant effect for NBA matches from outside this sample period, for NCAA matches, or for matches from the Women’s National Basketball Association. High-powered meta-analyses across the different sports and competitions do not reject the null hypothesis of no effect of being slightly behind on winning. The confidence intervals suggest that the true effect, if existent at all, is likely relatively small.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-532
JournalManagement Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
History: Accepted by Manel Baucells, behavioral economics and decision analysis. Funding: The authors acknowledge support from the Dutch Research Council. Supplemental Material: The data files and online appendix are available at 2022.4372.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 INFORMS.


  • competition
  • motivation
  • performance
  • regression discontinuity
  • sports


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