Sports & Happiness

An interesting study was done using data from World Cup fans. The study focused on how much happiness one gained from watching his team win, and how much happiness was lost when the team lost. The results were surprising. Fans showed minimal increased happiness from a win when compared with how much happiness they lost when their team failed to achieve victory. Four times to be exact.

Let’s break down the result and realize how this impacts sports fans, as well as other activities in life that involve winning and losing.

Fans showed that when their team won, the dial moved slightly higher when compared with their happiness prior to the game. For example, happiness was gauged with zero through ten, and had the ability to go to negative ten. A fan began the game just above zero, and after a win he edged up towards three. The loss brought him down over seven levels. A win warranted a three level increase, whereas a loss warranted almost eight degrees. This is about a three-times disparity.

The results are tremendously worse for a fan who attended the event. He typically began the event at a seven, and only rose to ten preceding the game. Again, just a three-point increase. The fan foregoes all of the excitement, and ends up close to negative ten when the team loses.

The risk-reward is not in your favor. In fact, it’s not even close. Why is that? The main rationale is the false expectation a fan sets prior to match regarding actual probability. The fan is irrationally over anticipating a win, which is why the reward is minimal even when the team wins. The fans have already set themselves up for failure. They expect a win, and when that happens the fans experience minimal marginal excitement. This, in fact is a feeling most similar to relief. Because they were falsely inflating the likelihood of a win, when the team loses, it hits them even harder. This is how the large negative swing occurs.

The takeaway is two-fold. First, if you intend to continue watching your teams, there should be an evaluation regarding how realistic you are in your allegiance. If you are expecting the best, or even how you choose to define average, you are setting yourself up for failure.

If you are unable to adjust your emotions, the question should be is it worth it to continue. Why would you follow something that will bring you more pain versus happiness?

Another way to go about it is to lower your expectations. No one likes to be negative, so it is a hard act to follow. Plus, even when you try to stay negative, you prevent yourself from enjoying the ride when they win, or you let irrational behavior creep in and you join the bandwagon through the gamblers fallacy. You say, ‘well, if the team is winning, they are bound to continue the momentum.’ You need to examine yourself regularly about how emotional you get while following your teams. Especially if you run a danger of having too much sorrow or excitement.

The final thing to realize is how this study impacts our daily lives. There are many things we take on that bring about successes or failures. Life is filled with results. The gut check is how much gain do you get from the result versus how much do you lose when it doesn’t pan out. This should be your guide.


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