Football: why do some people feel it more than others?

Mid Euro 2020 and Dr Martha Newson, who has been researching group psychology and identity fusion talks to Evan Davis about the fervour of football fans on BBC Radio 4.

Dr Martha Newson is a Future Leaders Fellow at the School of Anthropology and Conservation, her research is related to group psychology, conflict and cooperation, concerning human behaviour and evolutionary psychology particularly in regard to football fandom.

She has written extensively about the relationship between highly committed football supporters, having looked previously at soldiers, war veterans in respect to extreme bonding. She was asked why some sports fans feel it so strongly on BBC Radio 4’s ‘PM’ programme, whilst others can take it or leave it.

‘We all want to belong somewhere.’

‘Its a tribal need to belong. That really resonates with football fans, its a tribal sensation being at a game.’

‘If you are watching a sport your mirror neurons will fire as if you are doing it yourself while you are watching especially if you have personal experience of playing that sport yourself.’

‘The other side of it is this tribal belonging. Football, like rugby and other contact sports, triggers this evolved psychology that feels like you’re watching actual warfare –these are my brothers in arms, we could be attacked at any moment..’


Listen to Dr Martha Newson on Radio 4

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