Research Finds That Winning Makes You Mean

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]

Image: Shutterstock.


    If winning makes you mean then I am the nicest Starcraft 2 player in the world :P

    I might be being cynical here, but maybe people are just inherently jerks and losing simply makes them slightly more empathetic.

    im very empathetic when i beat my girlfriend... but im far too competitive... i think thats why she hates playing games with me :P

    i suck at most online games but im still mean...........debunked

      exceptions to every rule....rebunked

    It makes sense that a winner about that age or lower would be more aggressive than someone in their middle age. Around that age, you are still growing and your body has hormones, given the right stimulus, winning, would likely cause more "aggressive" behaviour against those who lost. As a sign of superiority most animals will perform certain tasks to show they are the best. By making the noise louder/longer against the same person who just lost twice is a way of dominatiing that person and showing that person the winner is in charge.

    Well I must be a pretty nice person

    Huh, so playing Mario Kart 64 when I was 7, and about to cross the finish line 1st, only to have some sore loser hit the reset button just as I was going to win makes me mean?

    Ohh those wacky psychiatrist are at it again.

    Some major problems here
    1. The sample is too low to make any kind of evaluation.
    2. Region is once again extremely limited.
    3. How do they "Measure" aggression?
    Some kind of gauge stuck into someones head?
    4. Stupid experiment, if you tell them you can "Blast" your looser
    of course they will do it even just to try it out.

    These people are not Doctors let alone Scientist, I wouldn't believe a word from leeches who drug and torture people for profit.

    These scumbags are continually attempting to label gamers with one of their invented "Diseases" so they can sell their mind altering drugs to you, which are nothing more than derivetives of LSD, Cocaine.

      Sounds like you've bought some drugs off these "scumbags".

      The aggression was measured based on the length and loudness of the blast. Obviously, a longer and/or louder blast of noise = more aggressiveness. Also, the experiment wasn't about IF they would blast the loser with noise, but how much noise and for how long so your last point is moot.

      I'm not saying I agree with these results or that they're conclusive, but it's an interesting study and you sound like the type of person that walks around with a tin foil hat to stop the government from reading your thoughts.

      Personally I would've thought that the results would show the losers to blast noise louder and longer as "revenge" on their winning partners. I know that's what I would've done :P

    I rarely compete in games where my opponent is in the same room but when I was competing in a fair few Guitar Hero tournaments a couple of years back (and winning) I was always respectful to my opponent; win or lose.

    I think winning, and being mean, is just a dickish move. I'd always initiate a handshake or some sort of conversation with my opponent when I won, or lost. Being mean or not talking to them seems like the same thing to me. So you win that time, doesn't mean you are the greatest, and I don't wanna be "that douchebag guy". Someone has to win and someone has to lose. It doesn't mean the loser is bad in any way.

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