Medallists happier to win bronze than silver, studies say
Medal rankings at the London Games are easy to understand: gold for first place, silver for second, and bronze for third. One might assume that placing higher in the rankings makes an athlete feel comparatively better, but does it stack up that way? According to some studies, and a few scrunched faces of disappointment, all that glitters is not...silver.
The stories abound: the Canadian women's soccer team triumphed over France after a controversial loss to the U.S. team in the semifinals. Scoring a single goal in added time, they won an historic bronze medal.
On the other hand, U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's failed vault attempt landed her on the mat to the shock of the audience. A favourite to win the gold, it went to Romania's Sandra Izbasa instead. Maroney's facial expression at the medal ceremony, twisted in frustration, was so stark it became an internet meme in less than a day.
According to a study from 1995, the contrasting scenes are far from unusual: those who win bronze are regularly happier than those who win - or "win" - silver.
Psychologists from Cornell University studied footage of athletes just receiving their medals during the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Bronze medallists consistently looked happier than silver medallists, while the gold medallists naturally looked the happiest most often.
The study attributes the comparative results as a function of "counter-factual thinking," or that gnawing "if only..." or "what if" notion of what might have happened. Silver medallists tended to focus on what they could have done to do better and earn a gold medal. Bronze medallists, however, breathed a sigh of relief at winning a medal at all, painfully aware of how close they were to a medal-free fourth position.
And what if one-on-one matches, as opposed to a race's straightforward times, decide placements? A 2006 study from San Francisco State University looked specifically at the judo matches at the 2004 Games in Athens. All of the bronze medallists smiled after winning their match, but none of the silver medallists did after losing their gold medal matches; their expressions, according to Scientific American, "ranged from sadness (43 per cent) to contempt (14 per cent) to nothing (29 per cent)."
While many in the CBC Community suggested a weighted points value for medals when we asked how countries should be ranked, it appears that, to the athletes themselves, a lot more emotion and introspection can go through their minds when medals of any shade is placed around their neck.
How do you think you would handle winning an Olympic medal? Would winning silver represent a failure to win gold, or could you bask in being second in the world?
(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)
More entries for category: Sports
Meet the Community Team
CBC News Community team, from left to right: Andrew Yates, Andrea Lee-Greenberg, Lauren O'Neil, John Bowman
If you're part of the CBC News community, you're likely to meet one of us: we're the folks working to produce and promote your stories. Read more about us.
Other Your Community Entries
- 2012 (1616)
- August photo contest: Back country BBQ
- Paul Ryan and Ryan Gosling spark vice-presidential humour online
- Reaction to 'wealth equals health' survey
- Gotye's Somebodies: YouTube video mashup of hit song
- How did Canada do in London?
- Golf ball-sized hail smashes windows in Calgary
- How should government try to reduce gun crime?
- Perseid partiers share their excitement for weekend meteor shower
- VIDEO: The CBC Community weekly wrap
- Medallists happier to win bronze than silver, studies say
- July photo contest: the winner!
- Twitter apologizes for @GuyAdams 'mess-up'
- Human immortality could be possible by 2045, say Russian scientists
- Internet pranksters send rapper Pitbull to Alaska
- Would you make realtors compete for your property listing?
- Reaction to report on smartphone overtime
- What do you think of Ye Shiwen's record swim?
- CBC's Eli Glasner on reviewing films, reading other critics
- Teen arrested for 'malicious' tweets to British diver
- Do you support Christy Clark's stance on the national energy strategy?
- iPhone's 5th birthday prompts loving tributes
- Show us your colours through photos of gay pride
- PETA slams Olsen twins as 'Hairy Kate' and 'Trashley'
- June in Tune photo contest: The winner!
- Should we learn to love the unibrow?
- Is the loonie as important a symbol of Canada as the maple leaf?
- CBC readers dish on 'Canadian food' and Maple Syrup
- Are you financially prepared to live past 100?
- Should alcohol flow freely across Canada?
- Will you wait for BlackBerry 10?
- Do you avoid disturbing news coverage?
- Would you grow your own shoes from 'genetically manipulated stingrays'?
- Dozens of Justin Bieber fans injured in Norway
- I [Heart] NY logo revamp? Fuggedaboutit!
- Musical grill blasts beats through your teeth
- Reaction to Canada's 'unique strain of Dutch Disease'
- New York sugary drink ban bubbles over on Twitter
- Mountain Dew + Orange Juice = Taco Bell's new breakfast drink
- Dr. Ruth to launch low-alcohol line of wines
- Reaction to census data on seniors and toddlers
- Should government seek clemency for Canadians on death row?
- Ugly Meter app worries cyber bullying activists
- And the winner of our April showers photo contest is...
- What would you add to Avery Canahuati's bucket list?
- Who is Titanic II backer Clive Palmer?
- Trending April 30: Titanic II, Conrad Black
- Should Conrad Black regain his Canadian citizenship?
- CBC's David McKie on investigative reporting
- Should rooftop missiles be installed for London Olympics security?
- Obama and Kimmel high-five at White House Correspondents' Dinner
- March photo contest: the winner!
- Shatner-hosted 2012 Juno Awards inspire fanfare
- 10 readers share their Katimavik stories
- Katimavik defended 26 years after Hébert hunger strike
- Earth Hour, Mega Millions, angry 'Beliebers' in morning trends
- Maple syrup hoarders prepare for shortage
- Top 5 at 5: CBC North
- Would bigger tax exemptions encourage you to shop across the border?
- What were your happiest years?
- Should charities lose their status for protesting?
- Community reaction to the Pierre Poutine revelations
- Top 5 at 5: Business stories
- Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey launch anti-bullying foundation
- Davy Jones honoured by fans on social media
- February photo contest: the winner!
- Women take the leap and propose marriage on Feb. 29
- Community reaction to closing of high Arctic lab
- Would you freeze-dry a deceased pet?
- U.S. storm watchers swap stories on social media
- Should Canada create an asbestos registry?
- January photo contest: the winner
- Top 5 at 5: Montreal stories
- Should Peru's uncontacted tribes be left alone?
- Is Ashton Kutcher right to block journalists from his Twitter feed?
- Would you wear Dress Pant Sweatpants in your workplace?
- Where do you donate your used clothing?
- Could a UN resolution help end Syria's unrest?
- Top 5 at 5: Politics stories
- Do you trust a camel that predicts Super Bowl winners?
- Community reaction to the Shafia trial verdict
- August (65)