This entry was written by our very own sports-rocket-scientist Mike Cannon:

I’m about to get all psychological on you.

You can blame Norman Triplett.  Go ahead.  He won’t mind, since he’s been dead since 1933.  But when he was still alive and at Indiana University back in 1898, he published the first known article on sports psychology.  It dealt with the effects of pacers and competitors on cyclists’ speed.  There have been hundreds of other studies since then, but ‘ole Norm started it.

It’s called social facilitation.  It is the psychological effect (don’t say I didn’t warn you) of group dynamics on the performance of simple, well-learned tasks–like running.  I’ll sum up years of research by Academicians who never held real jobs in just a single paragraph, which will explain why running clubs are cool, just ‘cause I’m good like that.

First, regardless of our current level of performance, we tend to perform better when competing.  Second, we tend to perform better when participating in a group setting, even when NOT competing.  Third, we are much more likely to participate regularly when part of a group.  And fourth, participating with a dynamic group varies the experience (even regular runs over the same course) enough to delay or eliminate monotony (which retards performance).

Oh, and on an interesting side note, we also tend to perform better when being watched by someone of the opposite sex.  This is just one of many reasons to ensure our group remains diverse.  But I digress.

If you want to conduct your own experiment in social facilitation, it is not too hard.  I can help you set it up.  Or you can just take my word for it.  Or ask a sports psychologist…they’re way smarter than me.

Share this one with your friends, RidgeRunners.  Have them join us.  The more, the merrier.