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Psychology Of Sports Fans - Society
Psychology Of Sports Fans - Society

Video: Psychology Of Sports Fans - Society

Video: Psychology Of Sports Fans - Society
Video: The Psychology Behind Sports Fans | Trevor Hecht | TEDxBOVSchool 2023, March

It is very difficult for me to write this note in the midst of the World Cup. When crowds of joyfully excited people in bright costumes walk the streets and blow into vuvuzelas. Someone hugs, someone sings, someone dances incendiaryly. Universal fraternization does not require knowledge of foreign languages, and the spirit of a worldwide carnival is in the air

Fan, more fun together

From the outside (at first glance) everything looks wonderful - a wonderful holiday! And for the one who mingled with the stormy crowd of football fans, everything is perfect. This herd instinct lives in each of us, the desire to "merge in ecstasy" with the crowd. This instinct is very ancient, and initially very useful for the survival of the species and even for the creation of human society.

There was such a Soviet professor Boris Fedorovich Porshnev, the author of the semi-forbidden book "On the beginnings of human history." According to Porshnev, the main mechanism that united primitive people and allowed them to act harmoniously was suggestion (suggestion). There are different forms of suggestion, but the most important of them is emotional contamination.

It worked like this: some status individuals (the leader of the pack), faced, for example, with something attractive, began to openly and strongly demonstrate their admiration for everyone around them. Others began to copy this reaction, imitating the leader at the level of external behavior, and this led to the fact that they began to feel the same emotion. Moreover, in the group, everyone began to copy the behavior of everyone. The closer the group, the stronger the emotional infection within it and the faster this "emotional infection" spreads across the entire group.

When a group is in a single emotional state, it becomes very easy to manage it. Each individual needs to be explained, to prove the expediency of the decision made, to give arguments, etc. Convincing (and especially to persuade) an individual is long and difficult. And when the herd is "in a single impulse", it reacts quickly, without thinking, just penetrating the state of the leaders, imitating their behavior and automatically following their commands.


This behavior seems irrational, but it actually helps to survive. For example, if a flock stumbled upon a predator, then everyone needs to be frightened together and quickly run away. And if you begin to explain and prove to everyone how dangerous a predator is, then in the process of argumentation, half of the flock will be devoured.

There is one more important point. Most of the instinctive patterns of behavior that are really important for the survival of a species are “reinforced” by nature with pleasure. For example, so that individuals do not shy away from procreation, sex is reinforced by the experience of orgasm (although, in order to conceive a child, this experience itself does not play any role at the physiological level).

Likewise, being in a crowd is also reinforced with powerful positive emotions. In a crowd, a person feels his involvement in something greater ("We are together!"), Feels strong ("There are many of us, we can move mountains!"), Feels safe ("There is someone to stand up for me"). His life becomes simple and understandable: “Wherever everything is, there I go! I'm like everyone else. " The burden of responsibility for independent decision-making falls off the shoulders; life becomes simple, easy and definite.

Usually in any social group, the expression of emotions is limited by some group norms and rules. There are no such restrictions in the crowd, emotions can be expressed openly

Therefore, any crowd works as an amplifier of emotions. A small joy turns into a stormy and unrestrained fun, and a small nuisance is perceived as a tragedy of a universal scale. In everyday life, emotions of such strength are extremely rare. Therefore, being in a crowd turns into a kind of "emotional drug", on which addiction may well arise.

Sport as a drug

In modern pathopsychology, a separate category of mental disorders is distinguished - addiction. Addiction is a pathological dependence on some psychotropic substances (chemical addictions) or on some dubious activities undertaken to improve the emotional state (non-chemical addictions).

To date, there is no single classification of addictions, since the list of dependencies is open and is constantly updated with something new. Around the 1980s and 1990s, at the height of the fashion for a healthy lifestyle, the so-called "sports addiction" was added to the list of non-chemical addictions. Sports addiction comes in two forms: active and passive.

Active is a "gym addiction", when a person literally begins to live in sports, exhausting himself with continuous training. Sport is a wonderful thing both for health and as a way to experience "muscle joy". At the same time, any professional from the world of sports will tell you how important it is to plan and evenly increase the load, how important is the training regimen and the recovery period after them, etc. But for a sports addict, training turns into an obsession, which leads to overload and injuries.

The passive form of sports addiction is “fan addiction”. This is just a story about those joyful crowds, about which I wrote at the beginning of the article.

The meaning of "fan addiction" lies in the voluntary abandonment of individuality, in the dissolution of one's "I" in an impersonal (but emotionally united) crowd. Moreover, fan addiction is based solely on the feeling of belonging to one's own sports club or to a specific sports team. This is a very simple and very ancient idea: "Our pack is stronger and better than all other packs!"

And perhaps the main question: is it good or bad - to dissolve your "I" in the crowd of fans? Is it harmful to our psychological health? If you read carefully about Professor Porshnev's ideas, you might get the impression that herd instinct is normal and even good.

But this is not entirely true. The question is how long a person “dissolves in the crowd” and what kind of ideas and instructions are put into his head while his criticality is reduced. Porshnev, by the way, believed that the driving force of all revolutions was an emotionally united crowd, under the influence of suggestions that uncritically accepted revolutionary ideas about the reorganization of society. This was the opinion not only of Porshnev, but also of representatives of the French sociological school, such as Gustave Le Bon, Gabriel Tarde, Serge Moskovichi and others.


Sports fans are not always “white and fluffy”. When their team wins, they have fun and are ready to hug everyone they meet. But if something went wrong, then they will just as easily designate an enemy and will be ready for any aggressive actions. Fights between fans of competing sports clubs are still in the air.

Fan associations, due to their cohesion and willingness to do a lot, are a "tasty morsel" for politicians and criminals. A certain radical ideology is invested in the heads of the “fighters”, generous sponsors warm them up with money, and now the assault squads are ready for the active phase of some next “color revolution”. Well, or just to stuff the face of those who are not with us …

Equal score

How dangerous is “sports fanaticism” for the psyche of the fan himself? There is no definite answer to this question. In modern psychology, “fan addiction” is referred to the category of so-called “dual addictions”. This means that “fan addiction” cannot be considered unambiguously harmful, it has both its advantages and disadvantages.

If we try to list all the positive and negative aspects of "fan addiction", then it turns out roughly evenly - "fighting draw".

Positive sides:

1. Qualitative emotional release. An opportunity to escape from minor worries, forget everyday troubles and stress at work. Powerful experiences associated with a specific competition wash away the previously accumulated everyday negative, a person experiences catharsis (emotional "cleansing"). This is the atmosphere of a real holiday - not a calendar "for show", but a real "feast of the soul".

2. Anonymity and the associated sense of freedom. Each of us in everyday life lives in a tight cage of social roles and associated responsibilities and expectations. It is the social Matrix that dictates to us what we should be and what we should do, restricting the freedom of our expression. If you are a "respected leader", then hardly anyone will approve when in ordinary life you suddenly start jumping with a painted face and playing the tune. They will probably think that you are crazy. But for a fan, this behavior is quite normal - you can shake off the burden of conventions and "come off in full".

3. A sense of belonging. It is believed that since the 20th century, modern Western civilization has entered the "era of individualism", which is characterized by significant disunity of people. Close social ties are weakened and easily destroyed. For residents of megalopolises, it has long become the norm to see even close friends and relatives once a week, once a month, or even less often. The “era of individualism” has given rise to the problem of loneliness - many people lack simple and filled with positive emotions contacts with other people. Feelings of loneliness can be well compensated by a sense of belonging to the group; and this feeling of belonging is easy and simple to get by joining a friendly company of fans.

4. Active rest. The best representatives of the fans are active and mobile people for whom this hobby becomes a kind of sport. Many of them can be considered advanced travelers who can easily "blow up" and follow their favorite team around the whole country or half the world. Some volunteer to help out at competitions. In addition, real fans not only get sick while sitting in a stadium or in front of a TV screen, but also try their hand at the same sport at an amateur level. This allows them to get a better feel for their favorite sport, start to really understand it well.

Negative sides:

1. Destruction of habitual social ties. The effect of social maladjustment is typical for any addiction, and “fan addiction” is no exception. The problem is that a fanatic easily abandons his social roles and obligations to loved ones (in the family, at work, etc.) for the sake of the “high” that addiction gives him. For example, if on one side of the scales “sit at home with a sick child” and on the other “go to a match”, then the addict will choose the second.

Another facet of social maladjustment is that a person sacrifices all available vital resources (time, money, and others) to addiction. Today, being a fan is not cheap, while costs (for paraphernalia, travel, tickets, etc.) can grow exponentially over time; but for the addict they will still be of higher priority than spending on providing for the family.

2. Flight into the illusory world. Sports fanatics have extensive knowledge of their idols, including spending hours discussing the tactics of the game of their favorite team (in the style “if I were the coach”), the specifics of the preparation and personal life of individual players. It is clear that these conversations are absolutely divorced from life - neither the players nor their coach will ever know about them; and they certainly will not in any way affect the future results of the game of your favorite team. Nevertheless, discussions between “couch sports experts” take up a significant part of the life of both the “analysts” themselves and their audience.

3. Aggression. The flip side of emotional involvement in any group is the formation of a psychological attitude "friend or foe". Sport is competition, which in severe cases (for example, when “ours” were unjustly condemned) is perceived as war. It is very easy to blind the fans of someone else's team to the “image of the enemy”, and in a war with this enemy they cross the line of what is permissible. As a result, we get a wide range of antisocial behavior from offensive chants and heaps of rubbish in the stands to massive brawls in which casual passers-by suffer.

4. Contingency with other addictions. Any addiction is easily and simply combined with other pathological addictions. For example, getting sick is much more fun if you first have a good drink of alcohol. It is clear that the organizers of the competition are trying to fight this, but read the fan forums - there are discussion threads that share dozens of ways to bring alcohol with you to the stands.

"Fan addiction" very easily connects with gambling addiction

Personally, I am unpleasantly surprised that even on the First Channel of Russian television, before each broadcast of a match from the football World Cup, well-known media characters make “bets on the First”. In fact, this is an advertisement for bookmakers, which have now successfully replaced the "one-armed bandits" (slot machines).

I am writing this with full responsibility, because in my practice I have repeatedly come across experienced gamblers, whose evolutionary trajectory looked like this: slot machines - casinos - underground casinos - bookmakers.

Sports betting is the same gamble that effectively empties the gambler's pockets and from which he is just as unable to "jump off", as with any other gambling addiction.

In conclusion, the good news is that each of us decides for himself what kind of sports fan to be. Take all the most positive from this hobby (plus not only watching the matches “on TV, but in between major competitions and going out on the field with friends). Or confirm the worst stereotypes about fans (in the spirit of black humor), turning into a shapeless creature on the couch, furnished with beer bottles and yelling at family members so as not to block the TV screen.

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