Can reputation biases influence the outcome and process of making competence judgments of a coach?


Corresponding author: Richard Thelwell, PhD, Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Spinnaker Building, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth PO1 2ER, UK. Tel: +00 44 (0) 23 92 845164, Fax: +00 44 (0) 23 92 843620, E-mail:


The present studies explored the effect of reputational biases on judgments made of coach competence and the visual search patterns adopted by individuals when generating initial impressions and expectations of a target. In study 1, participants (n = 326) observed footage of two coaches prior to making competence judgments of them. All participants viewed similar footage for the first coach (control) but reputational information was manipulated for the second coach (target). In study 2, participants (n = 22) followed the same procedure as study 1 but also wore a head-mounted eye-tracking system to enable visual search data to be collected. Study 1 broadly reported coaches with a “professional” reputation to be judged as being significantly more competent across varying competence measures compared to coaches with either an “in-training” reputation or “no reputation.” Study 2 indicated limited differences across the reputational conditions in relation to visual fixations. The data indicate that expectations of coach competence can be influenced, and largely controlled, by the reputational information provided to athletes. While there were limited differences in visual search strategies across reputation conditions, suggestions for research are made to enable a fuller insight to the interpersonal interactions that may facilitate the working association between athletes and coaches.