Happiness and counterfactual thinking at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games

Mark S. Allen, Sarah J. Knipler, Amy Y.C. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to investigate potential differences in emotional expression and counterfactual thought between bronze and silver Olympic medallists. In Study 1, 468 photographs (156 gold medallists, 156 silver medallists, 156 bronze medallists) were obtained of Olympic medal winners standing on the podium at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and 20 students rated the level of expressed happiness in each photograph. The students were blind to the outcome of the event and an average score for each photograph was used in data analysis. Results showed that gold medallists displayed greater levels of happiness than silver medallists but that silver and bronze medallists showed little difference in their expressed happiness. In Study 2, 192 quotations from bronze and silver medallists were obtained from news outlets, and 20 students rated the expression of counterfactual thought in each quotation. Results showed that compared to bronze medallists, silver medallists had more counterfactual thoughts overall, more counterfactual thoughts about how things could have gone better, and more counterfactual thoughts about their opponents’ behaviour. Overall, findings indicate that counterfactual thoughts differ between bronze and silver medallists, but that differences in expressed emotion are likely to be trivial or negligible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1762-1769
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Elite sport
  • emotion
  • mental simulations
  • positive psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Happiness and counterfactual thinking at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this