PsyBlog covers a study that explored the phenomenon of ‘reflected glory’ where sports fans will psychologically associate themselves with their team more closely if they are successful, but will distance themselves if the team loses.
The post discusses a classic 1976 study that looked at the ‘basking in reflected glory’ effect:
In the first of three experiments they compared what people wore when their college football team won with when they lost. On each occasion they went out and counted the number of students that wore shirts with their University’s name on it. Sure enough students were more likely to wear apparel emblazoned with their university’s name if their team had recently won a game.
In the second and third experiments the researchers found that people were much more likely to associate themselves with their team by using the pronoun ‘we’ if their team had won rather than lost. This effect was especially pronounced when people’s public image was threatened. In other words: if people currently feel they look bad to others, perhaps due to some failure, they are even more likely to try and reach for some success from elsewhere and hope that it rubs off on them.
Since then, there has been quite a sizeable literature on the effects on the psychological effects of being a sports fan – something known in the literature as ‘sport teams identification’.
One study found a clear link between team success and mood and a review even found a small effect on suicide attempts when you look at whole populations.
I don’t know a great deal about sports psychology, but there’s a small number of wonderful studies on how fans use pessimism to manage the psychology effects of wins and losses.
For example, one study found that dedicated fans of a team who’d just lost have an altered perception of how pessimistic they were before the game, perceiving their pre-match expectations to be much lower than they actually were.
Link to PsyBlog on the ‘reflected glory’ effect.