You are here

counterfactual thinking

Why Third Place is Usually Better than Second

Silhouette of a man hand holding a third place medal against colorful sunset sky
The 2019 World Athletics Championships begin this September. Expect to see a lot of third place finishers who are happier than the second-place finishers who just defeated them.

Superbowl Psychology

Image of American football player outstretched in the air catching the football

By Amy Summervile

Though you may not know it, when you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday—especially if you actually watch the game and not just the commercials— you’ll likely be engaging in a lot of what psychological scientists call counterfactual thinking: thoughts about “what might have been,” “at least,” and “if only.”

Research on counterfactual thought explains all kinds of surprising reactions to sporting events, and a couple of ways in which your judgment about the big game may not be as clear as you think.