Women put off by the prospect of their man turning on the TV to watch the start of the new football season have no need to fear.
According to new findings gathered by the University of Bristol and commissioned by PUMA, men told scientists they felt as much affection for their football team as they did for their loved one, however, their unconscious stress levels tell a different story.
Renowned for their passionate support, a group of twenty Newcastle United FC fans were selected as the research group. As part of the experiments all of the participants were asked to cut-up a photograph of their partner and one of their beloved Newcastle United FC team, scientists witnessed fans stress levels soar up to 70 percent when destroying the photograph of their other half – a far higher deviation than when cutting up pictures of Newcastle United players.
Used to uncover fans "true" feelings the scientists focused on the participant's implicit reactions to their tests using a Skin Conductance Response machine. This allowed them to find out exactly what participants were thinking, even when their actions may have suggested otherwise.
The major finding of this on-going research is that men in fact love their wives more than they love football. Before the experiment, the group of fans had expressed that they loved both equally, but their significant unconscious stress reactions proved men’s love for their wives and girlfriends is much stronger than they realise (or dare to let on).
Taking things one stage further, after the tests conducted by the university were over, fans were given two voodoo dolls, one representing their partner and the other their team’s star player. The dilemma facing them was to stick a pin in their other half and put her in bed with flu for a week or place a pin in the team's star player and see him miss a vital game.
James Cossey, a Newcastle United season ticket holder for 12 years, who has only missed two games in that period, decided there was only one choice. "When it came down to it, I just couldn't have Jonas Gutiérrez missing a game so I stuck the pin in the missus."
Roger Harrison, PUMA UK Marketing Director said: "As football fans we often hear about fans who suggest their team is more important than their girlfriend or spouse, so we decided to have some fun and put it to the test.
"Amongst the Newcastle United participants, who are known for being some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the world, it was clear to see supporters chose their wives over the team. In a game of two halves it seems it's the other half that wins.”
Marcus Munafò, University of Bristol said: "Men in the UK and around the world are undoubtedly passionate about the beautiful game. What we set out to do was measure it in a scientific way and particularly focus on using techniques which allowed us to find out what they (the fans) were secretly thinking even when their actions may have been telling a different story."
How the study worked
The fans were chosen as a sample group on the basis that each had been in a romantic relationship for a minimum of five years and had been a Newcastle United season ticket holder for a minimum of five years. Their average age was 46 and the average relationship length 21 years. 71% of the participants were married to their partners.
Before the experiments each participant provided a high resolution photograph of their loved one, which was added by the researchers to three other images: their beloved Newcastle United team, an unknown woman and an unfamiliar rugby team.
On the day of the test, Newcastle fans were given a pair of scissors and instructed to open envelopes containing photographs including the team shot and photo of their girlfriend or wife. Participants removed a sock and were hooked up to a sensor on the sole of their right foot, the scientist using a special Skin Conductance Response machine recorded the electrodermal activity (EDA) signal, testing their unconscious reaction to cutting up the pictures.
The research was carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Experimental Psychology and led by Professor Bruce Hood, MPhil, PhD, and Professor Marcus Munafò, MSc, PhD - experts in the fields of developmental and biological psychology.
The first stage of the research has been submitted to a psychological journal for publication later this year, but with the aim of broadening the scope of the investigation around the world, the team is now calling for fans of any football team, to get involved and take part in the love or football survey at www.loveorfootball.com