Newly minted gold medalists are ecstatic, second-place finishers slightly less so, and bronze winners the least happy—or so conventional wisdom would have it. But psychologists find that bronze medalists are usually happier than those who finish with silver, the Washington Post reports. Why does this Olympic paradox play out so regularly?
Researchers studying the post-competition reactions of elite athletes say that second-place finishers tend to obsess about the reasons they came up short, while those in third-place are happy to have made it to the top three. The studies suggest happiness is about expectations—and whether competitors compare themselves to those who fare better or worse.