We attempt to teach our children to be gracious winners and good losers. A new study suggests that may be harder than we think, as winners tend to be aggressive toward the people they beat.
“It seems that people have a tendency to stomp down on those they have defeated, to really rub it in,” said Brad Bushman, Ph.D., an Ohio State University professor and a co-author of the study. “Losers, on the other hand, don’t really act any more aggressively than normal against those who defeated them.”
Bushman said this is the first study to examine whether winners or losers were more likely to act aggressively.
Theoretically, either side could have been more in a fighting mood, Bushman said. Losers might be the bigger aggressors, because they would be angry against those who prevented them from feeling competent. However, prior research has suggested that people are more aggressive when they feel powerful, as they may when they win a competition.
Findings from the current study support this premise finding that “losers are the ones who get the brunt of the aggression.”
Bushman conducted the study with three French scholars with the study results published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
During the investigation, three related studies were conducted. All of the studies found that individuals who had either won a previous competition or who were told that they had won a competition were more aggressive.
Investigators found that losers acted about as aggressively as did those in the control group, who didn’t know if they were winners or losers.
That suggests winners do indeed act particularly aggressively, while losers aren’t particularly nonaggressive.
Bushman said the fact that the findings were repeated in three different studies, in two different countries, suggest that there really is something about winning that makes people more aggressive.
“Losers,” he said, “need to watch out.”
The next step, he said, is to find out if winners act more aggressively toward everyone, or just toward people they defeat. That’s the subject of an upcoming study.
Source: Ohio State University