Investigate the effects of an audience being present during a sporting task

In 1982 Michaels at al. tested the theory that, having an audience to view a sporting task would facilitate the performance of well-learned behaviours and inhibit the performance of poorly practiced ones. He did this by studying pool players in a collage union building. They were unaware of him categorizing them into two groups of six players, one above average and one below.

He then placed four observers to watch the players and once again observed them play. He used the independent variable as the pool players’ ability and the dependant variable as the performance of the pool player. The design he used was independent measures. The results he obtained were that, when being observed, the above average players increased their shot accuracy to 80% as compared to the 71% when they were not observed. However, the below average players got worse, with their shot accuracy decreasing from 36% to 25% when being observed.

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This research identifies with Zajonc’s theory (1965) of “Performance is facilitated and learning is impaired but the presence of spectators”. Another example of this theory being observed is MacCracken and Stadulis (1985). Using eight-year-old children to complete a balancing task. They found that the highly skilled children improved with the presence of an audience, whilst the low skilled children declined.


The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of an audience being present during a sporting task.


It’s predicted that there will be a difference in the performance (number of shots scored) with an audience present, or not, between experienced, well-practiced county level netball players and in-experienced non-netball players. Therefore making this a two-tailed non-directional hypothesis.

Null hypothesis.

The null hypothesis for this experiment is that: There will be no difference in the performances of county netball players and non-county netball players, performing a netball related task (shooting) by themselves or with an audience present. Any differences observed will be due to chance factors only.

Independent Variable.

The Independent variable used, firstly and for the main 2 conditions was whether an audience were present or not. However, two different standards of players were also used in this experiment, In order to determine how experience affects audience effects.

Dependant Variable.

The dependant variable was how many shots were scored out of 5 in each condition by each of the participants.



Independent measures design has been used – where each participant is allocated to two of four conditions. This is to enable effects of the audience upon players of different abilities to be seen clearly and has been used due to the players different abilities. Two main conditions have been used in this experiment. In the experimental condition; five people will stand in a line behind and to the right of the netball post, therefore creating a small audience facing the participant. They won’t speak or pass judgement in front of the participant. Each Participant takes 5 shots 3.5 metres away from the post. The control condition consists of only the researcher and the participant present in the sports hall with no other spectators. Each participant will take 5 shots from 3.5 metres away from the post.

In this experiment the independent variable is used as:

a) The ability of the netball player, one group of netball players are the ten best in Tyne and Wear county (under 18), whilst the other ten players have no previous netballing experience at all.

b) The second factor was whether or not there was an audience present. For the first condition there was no audience present (apart from the experimenter). Whilst for the second condition five people of the same age group (16 to 18) are present. The same people are kept as the audience throughout.

The dependant variable used is, The number of shots scored by a participant (in each condition) from 3.5 metres away from the post. Five shots are taken in each condition and the mean number of accurate shots will be calculated for each condition.

An extraneous variable was discovered, in having the researcher present during condition 1, (the control condition). This may have caused an audience effect, precisely the effect, which was being experimented on in condition 2. However the researcher has to be present due to accurate recording of the shooting scores. The problem of co-action could occur if this is not undertaken. Participants will obviously want to perform at the highest level possible if they are competing against co-actors and if they are asked to give their scores honestly there is a risk of them cheating and possibly increasing their total so as not to be embarrassed, thus providing an extraneous variable of co-action, this will become a confounding variable. This could be monitored by secretly observing the participants, however ethical issues may be raised and therefore the most ethically sound and accurate way to record this data is to monitor the results with only the experimenter present and note in the conclusion this extraneous variable.

I controlled for this extraneous variable by having the experimenter stand back from the participant out of sight and not speaking all the way through the experiment apart from the saying the instructions. This was to reduce any intimidation which may have occurred and to reduce the chance of any experimenter effects.

This task was one, which could have caused embarrassment to the participants and also future self-doubt regarding this sporting task. If the participants thought that they were under performing then they had the right to withdraw themselves, their data and their results from the study. Whilst at the same time, complete confidentiality of these results and any other information regarding the participant was kept because of, protection of the participants. I made sure that the right to withdraw was fully outlined in the consent form, which each participant signed. The participants were put under no pressure to either keep their results as part of the study or to withdraw them. This “Right to withdraw” option was also available at any time during or after the experiment was completed.


The target population for this experiment were the girls from Dame Allan’s school in Newcastle, aged between 16 and 18 who had previously had only limited netballing experience (only compulsory physical education lessons), and netball players aged between 16 and 18 who represent Tyne and Wear county, playing netball.

The sampling method used was that of opportunity sampling, 40 people were asked (10 of each ability) to take part, therefore gaining a sample of 20 participants from my study. I chose this sampling method as participants had to be willing and able to take part in this study. It was inexpensive and quick to select them and also the parent population of the Tyne and Wear netball County under 18 squad is limited to 20 people so therefore a method of stratified sampling could have proved difficult.

The sample used was andocentric – using only females. These females were all aged between 16 and 18 years. The experienced county netball players from group A were from different schools, however all form the Tyne and Wear region. However the non-experienced netball players were all from the same school (Dame Allan’s in Newcastle) and therefore have had the same amount of experience of physical education lessons as each other.