Watching your national team play in the World Cup can be an emotional rollercoaster. From the disappointment of seeing your side concede a goal to the exhilaration of a penalty shoot-out win, summer’s biggest tournament can have all kinds of effects on our mind and body.
Cortisol, dopamine and adrenaline are just a few of the chemicals flooding our body during an intense game. But, there other, more subtle changes going on that most of us aren’t even aware of. We teamed up with football fandom expert Susan K. Whitbourne to explore how a big game mentally and physically affects us, goal by goal and moment by moment.
The national anthem
Did you know that even before the game’s started, our body starts undergoing physiological changes? And hearing our national anthem is the reason why. Science suggest that mirror neurons start firing in our brain, giving us the amazing ability to put ourselves in the athletes’ shoes. We start feeling an amazing sense of empathy and pride as they sing our national song, and we can even understand what the players are feeling on the pitch.
Your team concedes a goal
With our emotions roused, we’re all hoping our team scores first. But if the opposition gets a goal, anger’s the emotion that usually comes next. Even if you’re usually ultra-zen, it’s hard to resist the temptation to hurl abuse at the ref on screen. Funnily enough, there’s even a word for this instant psychological reaction: deindividuation. Or put simply, loss of identity happens as pack mentality takes over.
Your team scores
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. One of your players beats the goalie and places the ball in the net result of dopamine coming into effect. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that tells your brain good things are happening. It also makes you lose all sense of your inhibitions. Ever hugged a stranger in a pub after a shock win? You have dopamine to thank.
The ref gives the other team a penalty
A player dives. The ref thinks your side is to blame. In moments like this, the first thing we feel is shock. You’re convinced it was the wrong call, but chances are it’s your cognitive bias coming into play. Selective perception is a common psychological result of rooting passionately for a team. The phenomenon was first spotted back in 1954 by Hastrof and Cantril. But over 16 World Cups later, it’s still going strong.
Extra time is looming
As the clock runs down on match, unless your team has a comfortable lead, your stress levels will be soaring. The possibility of a loss will send cortisol (a stress hormone) and adrenaline coursing through your veins – telling our heart to beat faster, raising your blood pressure and tightening your muscles. It’s your team on the line, and psychologically, that means it’s your reputation.
Your side pulls off a last-minute win
With not much time left on the clock, a last-minute goal can cause all sort of sensations in your body. Your heart starts pounding, blood starts pumping fast around your body and you receiving an intense testosterone boost. You’ll feel the same ego boost as the players on the pitch, and might find yourself chest puffed out for the rest of the day.
Find out more about how the World Cup affects your mind and body with Currys in-depth analysis in partnership with LG.