Monday, February 17, 2014

Bronze Beats Silver

People tend to appraise their achievements based the successes of their competitors. A small success can feel like a huge victory to someone who has surpassed a personal goal. Conversely, an immense accomplishment such as winning an Olympic silver medal often feels painfully inadequate when compared to the gold medalist's performance. It goes without saying that the gold medalist is in the happiest possible position on the podium, because they have achieved the goal that all other competitors failed to meet. It would seem that the obvious next tier on the happiness scale would also belong to the silver medalist, but some social psychologists suggest that bronze medalists are actually more content than the silver medal recipients. 

The logic behind this assumption is that Silver medalists face an emotional conflict that the bronze medalists avoid. A person in 2nd place is at the same time celebrating their substantial success and also grieving the loss of "what might have been". They knew that number one was in their reach, and because of that potential nothing short of gold is acceptable. Bronze medalists tend to be more content with their standing because there was a very real possibility that they wouldn't place at all, which would not reap the same honor and recognition that medalists receive.  The story of the bronze medalist is not one of personal conflict like the 2nd place competitors experience. Third place means that they have made it against great odds, and by the skin of their teeth. 

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