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Without my Medal on my Mind: Counterfactual Thinking and Other Determinants of Athlete Emotions

Laura Kudrna, Georgios Kavetsos, Chloe Foy and Paul Dolan

No 66, Working Papers from Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research

Abstract: How achievement makes people feel depends upon counterfactual thoughts about what could have been. One body of evidence for this comes from studies of observer ratings of Olympians’ happiness, which suggests that category-based counterfactual thoughts affect the perceived happiness of Olympians. Silver medallists are less happy than bronze medallists, arguably because silver medallists think about how they could have won gold, and bronze medallists feel lucky to be on the podium at all. We contribute to this literature by showing that the effect of category-based counterfactual thoughts on Olympians’ happiness depends on the margin by which athletes secured their medal. Although gold and bronze medallists appeared happier the better they performed, silver medallists were less happy when they were closer to winning gold. This suggests silver medallists feel disappointed relative to gold medallists but that bronzes do not feel particularly fortunate relative to non-medal winners. Teams were rated as happier than individual athletes and Olympians happier than Paralympians. Observers’ ethnic and gender similarity to athletes negatively influence happiness ratings; whilst observers’ self-reported happiness has a negligible effect on ratings. We integrate these findings with prior literature on counterfactual thinking and the determinants of happiness, and suggest avenues for future research.

Keywords: Counterfactual thinking; Close calls; Relative status; Happiness; Olympic Games (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D60 I31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cse, nep-hap, nep-hpe, nep-neu and nep-spo
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2)

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Working Paper: Without my medal on my mind: counterfactual thinking and other determinants of athlete emotions (2016) Downloads
Working Paper: Without my medal on my mind: counterfactual thinking and other determinants of athlete emotions (2016) Downloads
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