Happy people value and appreciate Olympic silver and bronze medals more than unhappy people, a recent study revealed.
The study, published in June 2016 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, examined the happiness of participants and the value they place on the three Olympic medals.
The research stemmed from the competition between the United States and China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China earned an unprecedented 51 gold medals (compared to 36 for the United States) during the games and claimed to be the champions. However, the United States earned a total of 110 medals overall, edging out the 100 earned by China, and claimed that this was a better measure of success.
The team was interested in the correlation between happiness and whether participants ascribed to the gold-first (only gold medals matter) or the total-medal (all medals matter) school of thought.
Researchers believed happy people would be more likely to value silver and bronze medals because of a general appreciation for life.
“Happy people habitually savor even small things more than unhappy people,” said Incheol Choi, corresponding author of the study.
Scientists studied 106 undergraduate students at a Korean university. Participants completed a happiness and life satisfaction scale, as well as a questionnaire designed to determine whether they believed in the gold-first or total-medal philosophy.
Unsurprisingly to the researchers, happy people placed more value on winning silver and bronze medals than unhappy people.
“The research most relevant to the present study concerns the ways happy and unhappy people value the frequency versus intensity of positive experiences,” reported Choi.
“Happy people savor little things that occur frequently, whereas unhappy people strive for intense experiences that rarely occur,” Choi continued.
Though the research is revealing, it points the way to a larger question for future research.
“Although our findings demonstrated that [happy people value silver and bronze medals more than unhappy people],” said Choi, “an important question still remains: why do happy people appreciate little things more than unhappy people do?”