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The Home Field Advantage

- June 8, 2008

Ivy.jpg

In a wide array of sports, there’s a marked home field advantage. When you’re playing at home, you’re much more likely to win than when you’re on the road.

Why is this? It’s easy to come up with explanations — sleeping in your own bed and eating home cooking, not having to get stiff and worn out from travel, being cheered on by supportive fans instead of booed by hostile ones, having officials who are intimidated by the home crowd, knowing how to cope with the idiosyncrasies of the playing field itself (the Green Monster at Fenway, the ivy at Wrigley [pictured above]) and so on — and the multitude of possibilities has been grist for the mill of thousands of discussions in sports bars and on sports-talk radio.

As it happens, there’s actually some systematic research on this very question. Not that it makes much difference, because almost everybody “knows” the answer already and isn’t really interested in the facts, and because, as is so often the way with social science research, many of the research findings point in different directions. Anyway, Jonah Lehrer recently did a nice overview of such research for the Boston Globe, here. It’s worth a look.