Several studies have found that gymnasts’ placement in within-team order affects their scores (e.g., Scheer & Ansorge, 1975). This effect has been explained in terms of judges’ expectations yielding a cognitive confirmation. In the present study, the influence of expectations on gymnastics judging was conceptualized within the schema approach of social cognition research. Three factors are addressed that contribute to the understanding of the placement effect: task difficulty, social situation, and process stages. In an experiment, 48 gymnastics judges scored videotaped routines of a men’s team competition. Target routines appeared either in the first or the fifth position of within-team order. Depending on the difficulty of the judgment task, a significant placement effect was found. This effect resulted from biased encoding of single elements, as well as from heuristic judgment strategies. Results are discussed in reference to the practice of gymnastics judging.
Henning Plessner is with the Psychological Institute, University of Heidelberg, Hauptstrasse 47-51, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany.