Posted by & filed under Motivation-Emotion, Psychological Health, Social Cognition, Social Psychology.

Description: If you watched any of the Olympics this past summer, think about it and then answer the following question. Who is happier, the winner of a silver medal, or the winner of a bronze medal? If you didn’t base your response simply on how you think you would feel in either of those situations what did you base it on? Perhaps, like researcher David Matsumoto, you based it on the facial expressions or body language observed in gold, silver, and bronze medalists and those who did not finish in the metals at the immediate end of their events. What sort of data might want to look at if you wanted to do research into this question?

Source: Why bronze medal lists are happier than silver medalists, and other things the Olympics teaches us about human emotions, Wonkblog, the Washington Post.

Date: August 12, 2016

                 Silver Medal Winner                      Bronze Medal Winner


Photo Credits:  Julio Cortez/AP and Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Links:  Article Link —

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David Matsumoto, is a former Olympic level judo coach and a psychologist at San Francisco State University. Over the past four Olympics he has studied the facial expressions and body language of athletes immediately following the completion of their events relative to how they finished in that event. What he is able to provide us with is some insights into the human expression of emotion and how that expression varies based on relatively small differences in event outcomes (at least in terms of finishing times). In addition to universal facial expressions of joy disappointment or surprise depending on the outcome of their event close observation of athletes immediately following their event also shows where the universal emotional response a shift into culturally mediated responses when the athletes remember that they are in front of the world media and begin to adapt their facial expressions and body language is based on the expectations of their culture.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of facial expressions and aspects of body language would you look for in the moments immediately following an Olympic event when trying to gain some insight into the emotional reactions of the winners and losers?
  2. What are some of the cultural dimensions along which the secondary emotional responses of athletes might be seen to vary following the completion of their events at the Olympics?
  3. Which aspects of the facial expression of emotion are learned and which may actually be genetically wired in and what sort of data might we look at to address this question?

References (Read Further):

Matsumoto, D., Willingham, B., & Olide, A. (2009). Sequential dynamics of culturally moderated facial expressions of emotion. Psychological science, 20(10), 1269-1274.

Matsumoto, D., & Willingham, B. (2009). Spontaneous facial expressions of emotion of congenitally and noncongenitally blind individuals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 96(1), 1.

Medvec, V. H., Madey, S. F., & Gilovich, T. (1995). When less is more: counterfactual thinking and satisfaction among Olympic medalists. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(4), 603.

Olympic Victory And Defeat, Frame By Frame