The Audience Effect explains how fans can screw up a franchise

Ever wonder what it would be like to have a bunch of people staring at you while you try to do your job? Scientists have, and they've come to some interesting conclusions. Fans usually catch all the screw ups of any given show. But perhaps the screw ups are there because of the fans.

How well would you do your job if a large group of people sat there and watched you do it? Some of you are actors or announcers, and so would reply, "Very well, thank you," but to be fair, you have probably had practice doing your job. The effect of a large group of people watching, especially watching the unprepared, has been studied since the 1930s. Psychologists wondered how an audience that did nothing but passively watch would cause people to act.

They found that an audience pushed behavior to extremes. Those who were asked to do simple jobs, or jobs that they had done so often that they could perform them confidently, did even better with an audience watching. They were more focused, and had more of an incentive not to screw up. If a person were asked to do something difficult or unfamiliar, they tripped all over themselves. People who might have done something competently, if more slowly, were making mistakes and second-guessing themselves. Pressure only works when the subject is able to get results.

When a show, book, or movie acquires a fan following, it's not long before there's a fan exodus. Fans say it isn't as good as it once was, or that it has gone in the wrong direction. There are explanations for this. A medium is likely to attract the most amount of attention when it's at its best. But, although the creators and actors aren't being watched while they work, the knowledge that thousands are people are scrutinizing every detail of their work has to do a number on their heads. As a fandom grows larger, and fans grow more passionate, do creators - who are constantly working on new problems - get the jitters?

Let me know what you think. And if you're interested in some fandoms that crashed and burned, check out our latest show, which is all about fandom scandals. We examine lawsuits, slash fiction, and what it means to come out as Slytherin.

Via Simply Psychology.