Why You’re Not a Professional Athlete: Reason #247

One factor that influences decision making is our “subjective time discount rate,” the ratio between the amount of future time a person wants in return for giving up a certain amount of time in the present. High ratios, for example, if you would only give up one hour today for 10 hours tomorrow, signal a lack of patience.  A new paper in Judgment and Decision Making examines whether there is a difference in the time discount ratios of athletes and non-athletes.

We found higher subjective discounting for professional athletes than for non-athletes. We also found that the professional athletes’ win-orientation positively affected their present preferences. On the other hand, professional athletes’ play-orientation, which reflects their attitude towards the game itself, negatively affected their present preferences. No such effects were found in non-athletes. We argue that the “win-at-all-costs” competitive approach that leads athletes to sacrifice everything in order to win may cause (or reflect) their higher preference for the present.

The findings are bad news for the all the 12-year-old girls hoping Tom Brady will take some time out of his busy schedule to attend their Bat Mitzvah.

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