31 October 2019, by: The Running Flyhalf
RWC 2019 Final: An Objective Look at Jerome Garces
*cognitive dissonance (noun)
1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.
In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist, theorised that as humans, we seek internal psychological consistency.
When there is internal inconsistency, we tend to become psychologically uncomfortable and we are motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance. We then tend to make changes, which may include avoiding contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.
By now, you have probably scrolled back to the top of the article to still check it’s a rugby one. Perhaps you’ve refreshed your browser. Most likely you’ve echoed the thought in your mind “I’ll give it one more paragraph to see if it improves because what the hell am I reading?”
Perhaps the worst part of this all is that I am not a psychologist and don’t have any professional experience in the concept. Please bear with me.
Setting the scene for Garces
On Saturday, 2 November 2019, the Springboks will set out to make history by becoming the Rugby World Cup champions for a record-equaling third time. For obvious reasons, a black rugby captain lifting the Webb Ellis Cup will be a euphoric moment for our country, should we win.
And (slightly less) importantly, the Boks need to do it for the world to ensure that the English are not joint Cricket and Rugby World Cup champions, something no non-Englishman should have to experience in their lifetime.
But to do so, the average South African fan will feel that we will not only need to overcome the 23 men in the opposing English team, but also the man with the whistle in the middle, one Jerome Garces.
South Africa's do not like Garces
You see, the recently-turned 46-year-old Frenchman has been entrusted with the whistle for the final and the average South-African-rugby-fan is not a Garces-as-a-rugby-referee-fan.
Why? Well, before the Rugby World Cup started, most Bok fans were quick to throw out any of the following:
“Jerome Garces is French, and there is no such thing as a good French referee.” “Garces has refereed 14 games involving the Boks, and we’ve only won 4. It must be his fault.” “Garces has refereed 6 games between the All Blacks and the Boks and we’ve lost all 6. Clearly Garces hates the Springboks!”
So if I told you that Jerome Garces is an excellent referee and is the best referee available to officiate on Saturday (bear in mind that Nigel Owens is injured, and Barnes and Peyper cannot due to their nationality), you would probably feel some internal psychological inconsistency.
Cognitive dissonance. And you would turn to the above facts to reduce the cognitive dissonance to make you feel comfortable again. A form of confirmation bias.
The problem is these statistics are fed to us without context. When you hear that we have only won 4 out of 14 games involving Garces, these stats don’t reveal much else. As Garces is one of the best in the world, he gets the top games, which usually means our games are against tough opposition.
Jerome Garces is a better Ref than Nigel Owens. Don’t @ me — Petri van Zyl (@Petrivz) October 29, 2019