We use new individual-level data from MasterChef, a television show in the United States in order to objectively capture situations of fear of failure. We codify situations in which the contestants are on the verge of being eliminated from competition and situations where they explicitly express fear of failing. These new data have the distinct advantage of being purely objective. We cover ten seasons, from 2010 to 2020 and include nearly 200 observations to study the role of fear of failure on performance. Using ordinary least squares, we show that extreme fear of failure is associated with an increase of two to four positions in the final placement of the cooking competition. This positive link between fear of failure and performance tends to contradict the conventional wisdom in both psychology and behavioral economics that such a link tends to be negative. Our findings are robust to broad changes in specification.
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