Listen On:

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify

Join Pushkin+

Subscribe now to listen ad-free along with other exclusive member benefits from more than 20 Pushkin podcasts!

Ice skater Michelle Kwan was all set to win Olympic Gold… but in a major sporting upset she came second. Sharing her story with Dr. Laurie Santos, Michelle lets us in on a key secret to achieving happiness when you’re tempted to feel like a loser.

To learn more. . .

McKayla Maroney’s The Face

 • Michelle Kwan’s website

Tom Gilovich’s website

Tom Gilovich’s book

Links to references from this episode:

“But on that podium in London, just for a second, McKayla’s face told another story.”

Macur, J. (2012). American Slips at the Finish, Losing Her Grip on the Gold. New York Times, August 5, 2012.

“Back in 1992, Tom embarked on one of my favourite ever studies in the field of happiness research.”

Medvec, V. H., Madey, S. F., & Gilovich, T. (1995). When less is more: counterfactual thinking and satisfaction among Olympic medalists. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(4), 603.

“During the 2004 Athens Games Professor David Matsumoto of San Francisco State teamed up with a martial arts journalist Bob Willingham to examine the happiness of the judo medalists.”

• A short citation:

Matsumoto, D., & Willingham, B. (2006). The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat: spontaneous expressions of medal winners of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(3), 568.

• The report:

• Further details on Dr. Matsumoto’s research:

“Back in 2003, Andrew Clark, a professor at the Paris School for Economics, studied well-being in the UK across different kinds of labor markets.”

Clark, A. E. (2003). Unemployment as a social norm: Psychological evidence from panel data. Journal of labor economics, 21(2), 323-351.

“Sara Solnick and David Hemenway, who ran the original study, asked a whole list of similar questions about other kinds of achievements.”

Solnick, S. J., & Hemenway, D. (1998). Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 37(3), 373-383.

“In 2005, Peter Kuhn, an economist at UC Santa Barbara, teamed up with colleagues to test what one Dutch household winning the prize does to material consumption in the rest of the community.”

Kuhn, P., Kooreman, P., Soetevent, A., & Kapteyn, A. (2011). The effects of lottery prizes on winners and their neighbors: Evidence from the Dutch postcode lottery. American Economic Review, 101(5), 2226-47.

“Tom has studied one other area in which many of us do this all the time. When we think of how good our social lives are.”

Deri, S., Davidai, S., & Gilovich, T. (2017). Home alone: Why people believe others’ social lives are richer than their own. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(6), 858-877.

“The first strategy Michelle used is what researchers call negative visualization— the act of wondering what things would be like if the good events in our life never happened.”

For example, see:

Koo, M., Algoe, S. B., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2008). It’s a wonderful life: mentally subtracting positive events improves people’s affective states, contrary to their affective forecasts. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(5), 1217.

• For the ancient roots of negative visualization, see:

Irvine, W. B. (2008). A guide to the good life: The ancient art of stoic joy. Oxford University Press.

“In fact, one study has even shown that silver winners more likely to die younger than those who win bronze or gold.”

Kalwij, A. (2018). The effects of competition outcomes on health: Evidence from the lifespans of US Olympic medalists. Economics & Human Biology, 31, 276-286.

The Host

Dr. Laurie Santos

Dr. Laurie Santos is Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Professor and podcast host Dr. Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition and the…