It takes lots of practice to shave strokes off your golf score. Or you can just really believe in your putter. Because a new study finds that people putted better when told that their putter had been used by a pro golfer. The finding illustrates what’s called positive contagion: the belief that beneficial properties can be transferred to an object. The research is in the journal Public Library of Science ONE. [Charles Lee et al., "Putting Like a Pro: The Role of Positive Contagion in Golf Performance and Perception"]
Forty-one college students with golf experience were divided into two groups. One group heard that the putter they would use had been owned by golf pro Ben Curtis. The others got the same putter, but without the story.
Before putting, everyone also was asked to draw a circle the size of the hole. The subjects who thought their putter was touched by greatness drew the hole bigger.
All participants then took ten putts. And the ones who thought they had Curtis’s stick sank an average of one and a half more putts than did those with no such beliefs. Of course, it’s possible that they golfed better because they had such a good lie.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]