Performance: Winning and losing and the ensuing judgments

The context of competition is loaded with emotions, feelings, judgments, so-called winners, so-called losers and social comparisons (Pekrun & Stephens, 2010). There are feelings that occur before performance, perhaps during, and after the event.  One may remember experiencing some degree of stress before an important evaluative event. During these events emotions allow us to experience winning and the frustration of losing—provided the event is important to us.

Within the context of performance exists a phenomenon where depending on what group one identifies with, and perhaps how others see us, we feel better or worse about ourselves (Alicke, Zell, & Bloom, 2009). The frog-pond effect occurs when individuals see themselves in better light if they perform better in the low achieving group and worse if they perform lower in the high achieving group. Take the example of an athlete who was not expected to be in the lead of the Ironman Hawaii 1982 Triathlon. Maybe because the athlete was the underdog or in the low performing group and was not expected to win, even then, her great efforts and the fact that she almost won the triathlon granted her support and attention from those around her—more so than the first place athlete.  Years later Julie Moss, in a Radiolab commentary, remembers the event positively.

See more: Julie Moss 1982 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon

Hear more: Iron man competitor Julie Moss on Radiolab

Alicke, M.D., Zell, E., Bloom, D.L. (2009). Mere categorization and the frog-pond effect.

Pekrun, R., & Stephens, E. (2010). Achievement emotions: A control-value approach.

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