Sports commentary is riddled with subconscious bias, and a new study shows how race and gender can have a drastic impact on fandom.
The study: Using tracking technology that can capture the way players move their limbs, the researchers produced two-dimensional renderings to determine what football looks like when you can’t see who is playing.
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1. Race: Research has shown that white footballers are more likely to be praised for things like work ethic, while black players are often reduced to their physical abilities. What happens when the race is deleted?
Of the 47 study participants who watched a two-minute clip of Senegal vs Poland at the 2018 World Cup, 70% said Senegal was “more athletic or faster,” a common stereotype of black players. .
But of the 58 others who saw a rendering of the same two minutes without knowing which teams were playing, 62% chose Poland, whose players were all white.
“The physical perks that were supposed to define the African team’s playstyle disappeared as soon as the color of their skin did. “
John Muller, FiveThirtyHuit
2. Gender: The study also looked at gender bias by showing viewers a pair of two-minute clips, one from the NWSL and the other from League Two, England’s fourth male tier.
57% of people who watched the shows said the men’s match was “better quality”, while 59% of those who saw sticks without gender preferred the women’s match.
To note : The results for the sex part were not statistically significant. But Toronto FC analysis director and study co-author Devin Pleuler still thinks the research shows promise.
“These results suggest that your average football fan cannot tell the difference between something that has a significant level of investment and women’s football, which does not.”
Weeping, via FiveThirtyEight
Read the full study.
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