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Christian Unkelbach and Daniel Memmert

The home advantage is one of the best established phenomena in sports (Courneya & Carron, 1992), and crowd noise has been suggested as one of its determinants (Nevill & Holder, 1999). However, the psychological processes that mediate crowd noise influence and its contribution to the home advantage are still unclear. We propose that crowd noise correlates with the criteria referees have to judge. As crowd noise is a valid cue, referee decisions are strongly influenced by crowd noise. Yet, when audiences are not impartial, a home advantage arises. Using soccer as an exemplar, we show the relevance of this influence in predicting outcomes of real games via a database analysis. Then we experimentally demonstrate the influence of crowd noise on referees’ yellow cards decisions in soccer. Finally, we discuss why the focus on referee decisions is useful, and how more experimental research could benefit investigations of the home advantage.

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Christian Unkelbach and Daniel Memmert

Referees in German first-league soccer games do not award as many yellow cards in the beginning of a game as should be statistically expected. One explanation for this effect is the concept of game management (Mascarenhas, Collins, & Mortimer, 2002). Alternatively, the consistency model (Haubensak, 1992) explains the effect as a necessity of the judgment situation: Referees need to calibrate a judgment scale, and, to preserve degrees of freedom in that scale, they need to avoid extreme category judgments in the beginning (i.e., yellow cards). Experiment 1 shows that referees who judge scenes in the context of a game award fewer yellow cards than referees who see the same scenes in random order. Experiment 2 shows the combined influence of game management (by explicitly providing information about the game situation) and calibration (early vs. late scenes in the time course of a game). Theoretical implications for expert refereeing and referee training are discussed.