Momentum and Elite Performance

Seppo E. Iso-Ahola, Charles O. Dotson

Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD, USA


A new theory proposes that initial success increases the likelihood of subsequent success by creating three types of momentum effects: frequency, intensity and duration. Using a large data set (11,015 tournament results from four consecutive PGA Tour seasons), the present study is the first to examine these three effects and the relationship between momentum and elite performance. Results showed that performance successes measured with four outcome variables (making a “cut”, top 30, 20, 10 finishes) not only occurred in sequence, rather than randomly, but that higher-ranked players were able to put together more frequent and more lasting strings of successful performances. They also bounced back faster as indicated by shorter durations of missed cuts, top 30, 20 and 10 performances. The data suggest that better players are in part better because they create more occurrences of momentum and ride them longer. When these momentum influences were removed from regressions analysis, eta squares were reduced to trivial effect sizes, thereby demonstrating the powerful effect of momentum and simultaneously ruling out any meaningful role for randomness. As a whole, the results support the theory and suggest that momentum is a force that explains elite performance and the way in which better players consistently achieve better results than lower-ranked competitors. Although the analyses were based on overt indicators of behavioral momentum, it is noted that the causes and effects of momentum are psychological. Momentum affects and is affected by conscious and nonconscious cognitions and thoughts. Journal of Nature and Science (JNSCI), 3(3):e325, 2017



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