Friedrich Götz, Stefan Stieger, Tobias Ebert, Peter Jason Rentfrow, David Lewetz
What Drives Our Emotions When We Watch Sporting Events? An ESM Study on the Affective Experience of German Spectators During the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Collabra: Psychology, 2020: 6, Heft 1, (article no. 15)
ISSN: 2474-7394 (online)

There is ample evidence that watching sports induces strong emotions that translate into manifold consequential behaviours. However, it is rather ill-understood how exactly spectators’ emotions unfold during soccer matches and what determines their intensity. To address these questions, we used the 2018 FIFA World Cup as a natural quasi-experiment to conduct a pre-registered study on spectators’ emotional experiences. Employing an app-based experience-sampling design, we tracked 251 German spectators during the tournament and assessed high-resolution changes in core affect (valence, activation) throughout soccer matches. Across the three German matches, multi-level models revealed that all spectators exhibited strong changes on both affective dimensions in response to Germany’s performance. Although fans experienced slightly more intense affect than non-fans, particularly during losses, this moderating effect was very small in comparison to the magnitude of the affective fluctuations that occurred independent of fan identity. Taken together, the findings suggest group emotions (collectively felt emotion irrespective of individual affiliation) rather than group-affiliation based emotions (individually felt emotion because of an affiliated group), as the dominant process underlying spectator affect during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.