This is Scientific American's 60-second Science, I'm Susanne Bard.
This July, just one year after turning pro, 15-year-old Coco Gauff beat tennis superstar Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon. She went on to win two more rounds against highly ranked players during the tournament. Similarly, in 2009 17-year-old Melanie Oudin beat a series of top-ranked opponents, making it to the fifth round of the U.S. Open.
How did these newcomers do so well? One factor—in addition to stellar play—could have been their meteoric rise in status both prior to and during the tournament. Opponents seeing the newbies' names climb in the rankings might have been somewhat psyched out. It's a phenomenon that Duke University researcher Hemant Kakkar calls "status momentum":
"If that person is gaining momentum, you tend to feel more threatened or intimidated by their momentum. And as a result, your performance is impaired."
Kakkar and his colleagues analyzed more than 100,000 matchups between tennis pros and millions of amateur chess games. They found that players fared worse when facing opponents who were rising in rank. And it's not just that the rise in rank reflected higher skills.
"Our research shows that you will be more threatened by someone who has improved their ranking from 10 to eight to four than who was always at four. Even though the two players have objectively the same rank, you feel more threatened by the one who has risen in rank."
Kakkar thinks status momentum may come into play wherever hierarchies are formed and disrupted—especially in the world of business. His team conducted several online experiments simulating real-world business scenarios to investigate the psychological mechanisms behind status momentum. They conclude that people expect that a competitor's future rank will actually mirror physical laws of momentum—that is, an object in motion will continue to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.
"When they see someone moving up in rank, they think that this person has momentum. And their first thought is, 'Oh, this person is going to continue to move up.' So these studies find that people tend to project opponents' rank in future—who have momentum. And as a result, they feel threatened."
The study is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research also revealed that focusing on their own strengths buffered participants against their competitors' status momentum. Another way to feel less threatened? Pretend that the competitors' rise in rank is due to an error in the ratings system.
"Delusion plays a huge role in how we maintain our self-esteem. It helps make us feel good about ourselves."
Thanks for listening for Scientific American's 60-second Science. I'm Susanne Bard.
今年（2019年）7月，在转为职业选手仅一年后，15岁的科科·高夫就在温网首轮击败了网球超级巨星维纳斯·威廉姆斯（大威） 。接下来，她在温网又赢下两轮，连续击败排名靠前的选手 。同样，2009年时，17岁的梅兰妮·奥丁击败了多名高排名对手，成功挺进美网公开赛第五轮 。
这些新人是如何做到如此出色的？除了一流的表现外，还有一个因素可能是：她们的地位在赛前和赛中迅速崛起 。看到新人排名不断攀升，对手可能有点吓坏了 。这就是杜克大学研究员赫曼特·卡卡尔所称的“地位动量”现象 。
“如果那个人获得了动量，你往往会被他们的动量威胁或恐吓到 。这会导致你的表现受损 。”
卡卡尔和同事分析了网球职业比赛和数百万业余棋类比赛中的10万多对选手 。他们发现，面对排名上升的对手时，选手的表现更差 。而且这不仅仅因为排名上升代表更高的技能 。
“我们的研究表明，与稳居第4名相比，某人将自已的排名从第10提高到第8再提升到第4时，你感受到的威胁会更大 。即使客观来说两名选手的排名相同，但你还是会认为排名上升的选手威胁更大 。”
卡卡尔认为，只要有等级制度形成和破坏的领域，地位动量就可能发挥作用——尤其是在商界 。他的团队进行了多项模拟真实商业场景的网络实验，以调查地位动量背后的心理机制 。他们得出的结论是，人们认为竞争者的未来排名实际上反映了动量物理定律，也就是说，除非受到外力作用，运动中的物体将继续保持运动状态 。
“当他们看到有人排名上升时，他们会认为这个人有动量 。他们的第一个想法是，‘哦，这个人的排名会继续上升 。’这些研究发现，人们往往会预测对手的未来排名，而这些对手有动量 。因此，他们会感到威胁 。”
研究还揭示，关注自已的实力可以缓解对手的地位动量对参赛者的威胁 。另一种减少威胁感的方法是什么？假设对手的排名上升是因为评级系统出错了 。
“错觉在我们维持自尊方面扮演了重要的角色 。它会让我们自我感觉良好 。”
谢谢大家收听科学美国人——60秒科学 。我是苏珊娜·巴德 。
1. psych out 使心虚；在心理上压倒；
They are like heavyweight boxers, trying to psych each other out and build themselves up.
2. prior to 在…之前；先于；
Just phone in your order three or more days pr ior to departure.
3. come into play （使）开始活动；（使）投入使用； （使）开始起作用；
The real existence of a military option will come into play.
4. move up 上涨；升级；升迁；
Children learn in mixed ability classes and move up a class each year.