The Superstar Effect

Jonah Lehrer reveals why the best athletes are so hard to beat:

The first

is that, when playing against a superstar, opponents simply give up. Instead of trying their best, they accept the inevitability of defeat. They assume that the superstar will win, so why chase after meaningless scraps? The second explanation is that the presence of the superstar leads to a mild form of choking. …

And this is why it’s so sad watching the slow fade of a superstar. Yes, they have lost a smidgen of their physical genius. But what’s perhaps even more important is the loss of their invincible aura, that mental advantage which makes them look even better than they are.