The Psychology of Winning -- and Losing
(CBS News) The phrase "Win some, lose some" will be little consolation for the players and fans of whichever team loses in today's Super Bowl. Just ask somebody who's been there.
In football-crazed Buffalo, the Bills are revered... and to this day, so is the number 12.
Jim Kelly (whose jersey number is the only one the Bills have retired) proudly wore number 12 for eleven years, winning more than 100 games. Starting in 1990, he did something that no other quarterback in history has ever achieved: He led his team to FOUR straight Super Bowls.
It hasn't happened since, and Kelly said, "It will never happen again. There's no way. To what we did, I'm very proud. I'm proud to say I was quarterback of those teams. It will never happen -- going to Super Bowl four years in a row, that's just, you know, unheard of."
Also unheard of: the excruciating outcome. The Bills LOST every single one of them.
Kelly told Spencer he's hasn't watched any of the replays: "Never have seen a game film of any of the Super Bowls, never watched one."
Why not? "If I went back, I would have to repeat that all over my mind. I'm at ease now, knowing what we accomplished, even though we didn't win 'em. I feel all right with that."
In football and in life, whenever we lose, we try to be stoic, and console ourselves with brave thoughts about lessons learned, about how we played the game. Because, as the saying goes, winning isn't EVERYTHING.
Fine. Then again, suppose it IS?
According to psychology professor Ian Robertson, of Trinity College in Dublin, "Winning's probably the single most important thing in shaping people's lives."
Robertson has studied winning, and what winning can mean. "All species have hierarchies," he told Spencer. "And your position in that hierarchy will determine your health, your mental function, your mood."
Robertson argues in his book, "The Winner Effect," that the reason it's so much fun to win is largely chemical. "Winning increases testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine, and that dopamine hits the reward network in the brain, which makes us feel better."
Feel better... and, it seems, even live longer.
It turns out Nobel Prize winners outlive the also-brilliant Nobel nominees by roughly two years. Baseball players who make it into the Hall of Fame have a couple of years on players who are turned away.
In Hollywood, it's really Winner Takes All: Academy Award-winners live, on average, four years longer than other actors.
"Think about the difference in billing of a film, Academy Award-winner versus Academy Award-nominee," said Duke University neuroscientist Scott Huettel. "So people who win the awards can command more for their next film. A scientist who wins a Nobel Prize will, of course, be able to be hired by any university in the world."