Would You Be Happier with Silver or Bronze Medals?

in #psychology6 years ago (edited)


You might be surprised that the silver medalists, at least on the podium, seem less happy than the bronze medalists. In 1995, American psychologist Thomas Gilovich, looked at the relative amount of happiness for the medalists of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The psychologist asked subjects to rate videos of the medal ceremonies for the amount of happiness expressed.

Silver medalists were unhappy compared with bronze medalists. The psychologist was supporting a theory by Khaneman and Tversky that regrets have less to do with actual outcomes than how far they fell short of what we imagined. In fact the theory would predict that silver medalists, the closer they came to winning the gold, the less happy they would feel with silver.

The nearer you came the greater the regret. Bronze medalists were often just happy to be there. Khaneman and Tversky went on to win the Nobel Prize for economics building on this and other theories.

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I actually understand this -- because it describes how I feel. "Second place" feels so degrading ... like "second best." I'd rather be skipped over entirely than have to accept some kind of "runner-up" trophy. (Yes, I know how illogical this is. I also know ... it's how I feel.)

And I can also understand why the bronzers are elated ... because they probably never expected to win in the first place, so this is a triumph for them. (And, of course, they will have seen the excellence of the winner ... and if they're honest, they know why that person took the gold and they didn't.)

I'm a pretty good judge of my own work. I know when someone else has written something better than I could do -- written the way I wish I could. And I know how "second prize" can feel like not so much of an honor. Your post gave me an interesting moment of insight. Thank you for writing it.

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Cool. I would still take the silver despite regrets

Why would you feel more sad the closer you get to your dreams? It doesn't quite make sense, but then again, the way the mind works often doesn't make sense.

That's the kind of thing they were studying, why we make systematic mistakes that are not sensible... especially useful in understanding economics. Even statisticians will take a bet they know is wrong statistically because they are often concerned with regret more than value

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