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Influencing the Judges to Win a Competition

by Ron Kurtus (9 June 2007)

In some competitions, the decision on who wins or the ranking of the competitors is decided by judges that follow certain criteria or standards. Trying to influence judges through bribes or threats is considered cheating and is also criminal. But you can subtly influence them through your personality.

A judge may give a contestant he or she likes the benefit of the doubt or a favorable judgment granted in the absence of full evidence, while going against a competitor not liked. Thus, it is good to act respectful and courteous toward the judges, if you can.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Bribes and threats

Not many contestants try to influence the judges in a competition through the use of bribes or threats, but it does happen.

Political elections have been rigged through bribing the vote counters. Olympic judges have been bribed. In Little League baseball games, parents have threatened umpires that made judgments against their children's team."

Trying to win a competition through the use of bribes or even threats may work in some situations. But it is cheating and often considered criminal. Most judges will report such attempts. Perpetrators can be kicked out of the competition and even prosecuted and jailed.

Bias by judge

Judges are not perfect. They are human and can be biased. If there is something they don't like about a contestant, they may lean their judgments against that contestant. Likewise, if they like the contestant, they may bias their votes in the person's favor.


In Olympics gymnastics during the Cold War, judges from Communist countries would show obvious bias against Western athletes and toward those from Communist states. They were often so out of line, that the judging criteria was changed and the high and low scores of judges would be thrown out in an attempt to make the judging not so biased.

In professional basketball, players that complain a lot and argue with the referees, often get more foul calls against them that do players that are friendly and courteous to the refs. In fact, some players seem to be immune from foul calls with certain referees. This is just human nature.

In school, the troublemaker may get a lower score on a test than the student who is obedient and friendly with the teacher, even though they both did about the same in the test. There just is a tendency to give the nicer student a slightly higher grade for the same work.

Areas of positive and negative bias

Areas of bias or prejudice include looks, race, religion and politics. Also, the personal relationship can influence the judge. They will favor a nice, friendly and respectful competitor over an argumentative, surely and insulting person.


If you are in a competition where part of all of the score is determined by judges, it is wise to be courteous and respectful to the judges. This does not mean to "play up to them" and try to over-friendly. But it does mean to be friendly and recognize them as individuals doing their job. In this way, you will have an edge over the competitor who argues or causes trouble with the judge.

Don't be blatant

Purposely seeking out a judge to try to influence the person through your personality or friendship is not advised. In many competitions, you are not supposed to even talk to the judges. Blatant efforts to influence a judge can almost be considered cheating.

When interacting with judges

In some sports, players interact with the judges or referees. Baseball players can ask questions and make comments to the various umpires that judge the game. Basketball players interact with certain referees on a regular basis. The same is true in other sports where the judges are among the players. In those cases, the players that interact in a friendly and respectful manner get much better calls than those players that are argumentative and even insulting to the referees. All things being equal, the referee will tend to favor the nice person over the surly player.

In school, the teacher gives out the grades. Although they are supposed to be based on solely on test scores, the teacher does have latitude on evaluating, judging and determining the student's grade. The classical case of the student who brings the teacher an apple every day shows how the personality of the student can affect the grade he or she gets. A teacher may even assume that a trouble-maker probably cheated on a test and give the student a lower grade than deserved.

Be respectful

In all cases, it is good to be cordial, respectful, and courteous to those judging your competition. You don't want points taken away from you, because the judge does not like you. You would prefer to get an edge in the competition from "good judging" and the benefit of the doubt.


Trying to influence judges through bribes or threats is considered cheating and is also criminal. You can subtly influence judges through your personality. A judge may give you the benefit of the doubt if you seem like a nice person and may go against a troublemaker. Thus, it is good to act respectful and courteous toward the judges.

Be aware of prejudice

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