Document Type


Publication Date



International Business and Management



Publication Title

Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science


Histograms of push-ups and curl-ups from a sample of more than 9,000 students show periodic spikes at five and 10 unit intervals. This article argues that these spikes are related to focal points, a game theoretic concept popularized by Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling. Being focal on one test makes one more likely to be focal on the other. Focal students(whose push-up score is a multiple of 5 and whose curl-up score is a multiple of 10) behave differently from their non-focal peers. They are more likely athletic, older, and male. Focal students, on average, did 2.2 more push-ups, 1.7 more curl-ups, and ran the mile 15 seconds faster than non-focal students, even controlling for these covariates of performance. By contrast, being focal on a single activity did not produce a statistically significant mile time difference. Students who systematically stop at focal outcomes appear differentially motivated toward physical activity performance.


Published as:
Erfle, Stephen E. and Corey M. Gelbaugh. "Physical Activity Performance of Focal Middle School Students." Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science 17 (2013): 150-66.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science on March 11, 2013, available online at: Taylor and Francis Online.