Apparently, being a gracious victor in a competitive situation really is hard to do.
Everyone can remember a primary school teacher cautioning kids against being either sore losers or bad winners. A new study out of Ohio State University finds that perhaps there are reasons being a bad winner is so common. Researchers found that after a competition had concluded, winners were likely to become significantly more aggressive toward their beaten competitors.
The research team conducted three separate studies, all related to different aspects of the same question. Science Daily reports:
The first study involved 103 American college students who were told they would be paired with a partner who they would be competing against on two tasks. (In actuality, there was no partner) ... After 80 trials, all students were told their scores. Half of them were told they did better than their supposed partner, and half were told they did worse. In other words, half were winners and half were losers.
Those students were then asked to perform a second task, used to measure aggression. The participants were told that "they and their partner (supposedly the same person they competed against in the first task) would have to press a button as fast as possible on each of the 25 trials and that whoever was slower would receive a blast of noise through headphones."
The winner of the task was able to choose how loud and long the blast the loser received would be. Results indicated that participants who were winners in the first round blasted their imaginary partners longer and louder after the second task than students who lost the first round did.
A second study, using a group of 34 French students, used different tasks but got the same results. The third, measuring a group of 72 French students, added a control group and used different methods of testing for aggression, but still came to a similar conclusion.
The study did not determine whether victors become more aggressive toward anyone, or only toward their defeated opponents.
Either way, if winners become jerks, that could go a long way toward explaining why losing sucks so much — and why so many competitive online gaming spaces are not exactly renowned for their civility and grace.
Winning Makes People More Aggressive Toward the Defeated [Science Daily, via Kill Screen]