The appeal of the underdog

Dec 19, 2007

In a series of studies, researchers Joseph A. Vandello, Nadav P. Goldschmied, and David A. R. Richards (of the University of South Florida) tested the scope of people’s support for those who are expected to lose, seeking to understand why people are drawn to the Rocky Balboas and the Davids (versus Goliaths) of the world.

Using both sports and political examples, the researchers asked study participants to react to various scenarios presenting different competitors with an advantage or disadvantage.

For instance, in one study using the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, the participants were given the same essay about the history of the area, but with different maps to reference – one showing Palestine as smaller than Israel (and thus, the underdog) and the other showing Israel as smaller. No matter what scenario the participants were presented with, they consistently favored the underdog to win.

Why do people support underdogs and find them so appealing? The researchers propose that those who are viewed as disadvantaged arouse people’s sense of fairness and justice – important principles to most people. The researchers also found that people tend to believe that underdogs put forth more effort than top-dogs, but that favorable evaluation disappeared when the underdog status no longer applies, such as when people are expected to lose but have a lot of available resources.

Source: SAGE Publications

Explore further: Best of Last Week - Zero friction quantum engine, twisted radio beams and Ebola outbreak update

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Does the wisdom of crowds prevail when betting on football?

Nov 15, 2010

the number of points by which a strong team can be expected to defeat a weaker team—are supposed to reflect the "wisdom of crowds." But a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that crowds don't have a clue ...

Consumers love underdogs

Jul 20, 2010

Consumers strongly relate to brands that they perceive as underdogs, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Recommended for you

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

Sep 19, 2014

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives' tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

Sep 16, 2014

As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

Sep 16, 2014

Federal prosecutors say radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have settled civil claims that they misused money from a nearly $1 million federal ...

User comments : 0