A recent study conducted by South American researchers investigated the intriguing realm of fan psychology, and the phenomenon of heightened aggression among seemingly rational individuals during and after sporting events. Employing functional MRI scans, the study observed 40 male fans of two rival Chilean soccer teams as they viewed a compilation of their teams’ successes and failures.

The findings? As you might expect, fans like it when they win and aren’t happy when they lose. But beyond that, there are disturbing possibilities—particularly on the losing side.

According to lead researcher Dr. Francisco Zamorano Mendieta, with a loss there is a “hampering [of] the mechanism that regulates cognitive control, increasing the probability to fall into disruptive or violent behavior.”

Exciting Events and Growing Unrest

In the United States, we’ve already witnessed a surge in patron hostilities at sports and entertainment venues, a trend exacerbated by the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As discussed in a November 2022 TPOP piece, venues both large and small, are under increasing pressure, necessitating enhanced security measures and staff training for the prevention and preparedness of potential violence through de-escalation techniques and situational awareness.

Fanaticism Beyond the Ballfield

Notably, the study also suggests there are broader implications beyond the sporting realm, as fanaticism-induced aggression can be seen extending into other areas like politics and religion. The emotional rollercoaster of victories and defeats, or even attachment to group ideals, seems to erode cognitive barriers that inhibit violent response.

With the Super Bowl knocking on our door, March Madness just around the corner, and a tense election year just getting underway, understanding and addressing the nexus between fanaticism, emotional extremes, and violent tendencies is imperative for creating safer environments both in the stands and in the streets.

With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, active shooter preparedness and response, situational awareness, de-escalation techniques, and more, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.