Thrill of victory: Success among many feels better

June 19, 2013
Thrill of victory: Success among many feels better

(Medical Xpress)—Success feels good, but it is better when people win in big groups—even if the chance of success is the same, a new University of Michigan report indicates.

Researchers found that people feel happier and more satisfied if their accomplishment is against competitors in larger groups than identical success among smaller groups.

"Success among larger is associated with more positive because people perceive the performance as more indicative of real ," said Ed O'Brien, the study's lead author and a U-M doctoral student in .

In other words, the win against many competitors represents their "true" abilities, not an outcome that might be described as a "fluke" with fewer individuals seeking , O'Brien said.

O'Brien and Linda Hagen, a doctoral student in marketing at U-M's Ross School of Business, conducted five studies to understand people's reaction to victories depending on the number of competitors in different scenarios, holding constant the chance of success.

In one experiment, participants read about a runner who placed in the top 10 percent of a with few (20) or many (20,000) competitors, and estimated how happy he felt. They also rated how prestigious they thought the race was. The results indicated that participants thought the runner would be happier placing among the top 10 percent in a race with many , as well as consider it a prestigious race compared with the smaller event.

Using the same race example, another experiment asked participants to rate what they thought the runner would infer about his true running abilities after the victory and winning future races. The participants thought the runner's victory against many people was significantly representative of his real running abilities and future success than the same win versus fewer people.

"These findings suggest people have an intuitive understanding of what's called the law of large numbers," Hagen said. "They realize that large competitive pools contain a wider, better range of talent. Winning in large competitions thus seems like a more definitive victory, even though chance of success doesn't actually change—and that provides the emotional boost."

The findings appear in the current issue of Emotion.

Explore further: Experiences are better when we know they're about to end

More information:

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Men more likely to be seen as 'creative thinkers'

September 28, 2015

People tend to associate the ability to think creatively with stereotypical masculine qualities, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings ...

Babies time their smiles to make their moms smile in return

September 23, 2015

Why do babies smile when they interact with their parents? Could their smiles have a purpose? In the Sept. 23 issue of PLOS ONE, a team of computer scientists, roboticists and developmental psychologists confirm what most ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.