Top field hockey players are more optimistic than recreational players

What determines whether someone reaches the highest level in a particular sport? Is it just talent or do behavioral differences also play a part? To answer this question, Professor Han Bleichrodt, Chair of behavioral economics at Erasmus School of Economics, along with fellow researcher Olivier l'Haridon (University of Rennes) and alumnus David van Ass (MSc behavioral economics) measured the risk preferences of 31 players from the Dutch men's national field hockey 

Their research showed that top field hockey players are significantly more optimistic than recreational field hockey players. Top field hockey players overestimate the chance of profit (success) and underestimate the risk of loss compared to recreational field hockey players. This finding gives a behavioral explanation as to why hockey players succeed and recreational hockey players don’t: a career in sports is risky and offers only a very limited chance of success. Top field hockey players overestimate the chance of success and that means that they are more capable to deal with setbacks and negative feedback.


The findings of this study are consistent with other studies that show that optimistic people (e.g. CEOs) are more successful. Moreover, it suggests that deviations from rational behavior do not necessarily lead to poorer outcomes.



More information

For more information, please contact Ronald de Groot, Communication Officer of Erasmus School of Economics phone +31 6 53 641 846 or by e-mail:

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