Who said being a fan was easy? Football is a sport of highs and lows and the more important the match, the more you're in the thick of it.
This infographic, brought to you in association with LG, explores what happens to our minds and bodies during a match. Watching at home on your OLED TV, you're reacting to every miniscule fluctuation in the game, from the release of cortisol during moments of high stress to the rush of dopamine when your team wins.
Explore our insights inside and look out for expert analysis from Susan K. Whitbourne, a specialist in football fandom.
Science suggests that mirror neurons are firing in your brain1; special circuitry that gives you the ability to put yourself in the athlete’s shoes. You might never have belted out the anthem in front of 60,000 spectators, but you’re instinctively feeling what the players are feeling on the pitch.
Mirror neurons aren’t only part of humans. In fact, they were first discovered in the Macau monkey by scientists in Parma in the early 90s.2
You and your friends are up in arms, and it’s tough to resist the temptation to hurl abuse at the screen. Social psychology calls this deindividuation3 – a loss of identity as the pack mentality takes over.4
Football fever hit Germany in 2006 and amazingly, when the German national team was playing, Bavarian men were 3.26 times more likely to have heart problems.5
Dopamine is triggered, a chemical messenger that tells your brain good things are happening. When dopamine floods our body, we lose our inhibitions, which is why fans that might be complete strangers celebrate together like old friends.6
Dopamine is good for the eyes. In theory, binge watching football could actually help with short-sightedness!7
You’re up in arms at the decision – convinced it was the wrong call. But that might be your cognitive bias coming into play. Selective perception has kicked in, psychologists say.8
All the way back in 1954, Hastorf and Cantril discovered that when we watch sport, we’re seeing what we want to see. Our emotions and biases colour our perception more than we’d like to admit.
The hormones adrenaline and cortisol are moving through your blood. They’re messages to your body to pump blood faster, tighten your muscles and raise your blood pressure.9
Scientists argue that we take our losses badly because it communicates a step back in status. We’ve failed to back the winning horse, as it were. And that’s especially true when we’re watching our national team on the global stage!10
You’re having the same hormonal response as the players. Your heart is pounding, blood is pumping and you’re receiving a testosterone boost to boot.11 You can walk around with your chest puffed out all day and night at this rate.
The more passionate a supporter you are, the more stress you’ll take on during a match – but that passion means that if your team wins, you get the bigger testosterone boost.12
"Sports are often trivialised and thought of as entertainment, but at a deeper level, your team has a meaning that extends far beyond the stadium."
"The feeling of bonding with your fellow sports fans occurs when neurotransmitters responsible for empathy and social connection are released. As these neurotransmitters are triggered, they initiate a cascade of changes throughout the body involving hormones that create pleasurable sensations."
"When our team wins an important match, the neurotransmitters responsible for excitement and elation flood the brain and lead to waves of pleasure during those moments of glory."
"Sports has the ability to reinforce a sense of shared identity when you are watching with a group. Your own identity is actually affirmed when you feel connected to your team."
"The larger image and sound provided by modern TVs heightens the reality for the viewer which puts you more in the centre of the action."
Susan Whitbourne, PhD, ABPP, is a professor and psychologist who has been regularly consulted on the psychology of sports fandom. Her work has appeared in outlets such as Psychology Today, Dateline NBC, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek and more.
If you love the Beautiful Game, you can expect cortisol, dopamine and selective reasoning to surge through your brain and body during a high-stakes match.
As we’ve discovered, you don’t even have to be at the stadium to ride the rollercoaster – you’re experiencing it to the fullest from the comfort of your couch. That’s because we’re wired to feel what players are feeling on the ground, and what fans are feeling in the stands.
Catch all this summer’s footballing action on an LG TV. Looking for a vibrant picture with the styling to match? Check out the OLED range for unparalleled viewing pleasure.