Why Some Olympic Bronze Medalists Are Walking Away Happier Than Silver Medalists

Silver medalists are likely less happy than Bronze medalists, because our minds have a tendency to dwell on “what could have been.”

Silver medalists may be less happy than Bronze medalists, because of our mind's tendency to dwell on “what could have been.”

"If you win a silver, it is very difficult to not think, 'Boy, if I had just gone a little faster at the end,’” researcher Tom Gilovich, explained to the Washington Post. “The bronze-medal winners--some of them might think, 'I could have gotten gold if I had gone faster,' but it is easier to think, 'Boy, I might not have gotten a medal at all!'"

Back in the 90s Tom Gilovich was part of a team of researchers who went to the 1992 Summer Olympics to study the emotional reactions of Silver and Bronze medalists.

Unsurprisingly, during their study they found Gold medalists were quite happy with their performance and had very positive emotions—higher than the Silver and Bronze medalists. But they found Silver medalists would continuously talk about what they could have done differently in order to win, where as Bronze medalists were more focused on how lucky they were to win a medal at all.

It’s not just Olympic athletes, though. The researchers went to the Empire State Games, an amateur competition in New York, where they interviewed 115 athletes who received medals. The results were the same—the Silver medalists just couldn’t seem to shake the thought that they could have done more.

The researchers attribute these results to concept in psychology known as counterfactual thinking. It’s the human tenancy to ponder the possible alternatives to life events. So, for the Silver medalists this alternate reality may be winning the Gold, but for Bronze medalists it’s likely finishing without a medal at all. When considering these alternatives it’s no wonder the Bronze medalists is walking away with a bigger grin.

Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui is a perfect example: 

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Life is hard: Jordan Peterson and the nature of suffering

The Canadian professor's old-school message is why many started listening to him.

Jordan Peterson addresses students at The Cambridge Union on November 02, 2018 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. (Photo by Chris Williamson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth
  • The simplicity of Peterson's message on suffering echoes Buddha and Rabbi Hillel.
  • By bearing your suffering, you learn how to become a better person.
  • Our suffering is often the result of our own actions, so learn to pinpoint the reasons behind it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less