Possibly. Gretchen Reynolds writing in the NY Times notes that “this question is the focus of a provocative and growing body of new science examining the role of oxytocin (‘the love hormone’) in competitive sports.” Reynolds explains that “oxytocin is a brain peptide that is known to promote positive inter-social relations.” New mothers are awash in it, as are new-formed romantic couples.
Enter Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the center for Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen in the The Netherlands, and the author of a new review of oxytocin and competition. Reynolds quotes liberally from Peppings findings. Peppings found for instance, “that when one of the first shooters (in a soccer shootout) threw his arms in the air to celebrate a goal, his teammates were far more likely to subsequently shoot successfully than when no exuberant gestures followed a goal.” It seems , the players had undergone a ‘transference of emotion’, and “each player almost certainly had experienced a shared burst of oxytocin, and in a rush of positive feeling, had shot better.”
One immediately wonders if the opponents of the celebrating and gloating hot-doggers might have contributed to their subsequent success in some way, such as kicking them in the shins, thus giving them a free penalty kick.
There are are hints that physical activity, in itself , may heighten production of oxytocin, according to Reynolds. “Every game or race may be a kind of love match” she opines. Such as a jog in the park with your girl friend for instance, one wonders? Is it that extra squirt of oxytocin brought on by exercise alone that’s hyping your positive emotional experience in this situation? Or is the fact that you insist that she take the lead a bigger factor?
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