The Real March Madness: People Remember The Wins, Forget Losses | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

The Real March Madness: People Remember The Wins, Forget Losses

Play associated audio
Don't fret if your alma mater is eliminated from the NCAA Basketball tournament -- scientists say you probably won't remember it anyway.
Stuart Seeger: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/379550719/
Don't fret if your alma mater is eliminated from the NCAA Basketball tournament -- scientists say you probably won't remember it anyway.

College basketball fans are beginning the annual rituals that revolve around March Madness. Of course, half the fans watching any game will leave disappointed, but a psychology professor in D.C. has some reassuring findings for grieving fans.

D.C. resident and Duke fan Pae Wu has a very thorough knowledge of Blue Devil basketball. She can give play by play accounts of big wins going back years -- including her team's national championship in 2010.

"As the clock started ticking down, I found myself experiencing some shaking, some mild hyperventilation," recalls Wu. "And then after Gordon Hayward's shot bounced out of the rim, there was complete bedlam."

Martin Safer, psychology professor at the Catholic University of America, says vivid memories of victories tend to stick with fans for several reasons. They may talk about wins with friends --  and buy momentos that reinforce those memories.

"Every time they see this hat, this t-shirt, pencil, whatever it may be, they're sort of reminded about the game that their team won," says Safer.

Wu -- for instance -- saved newspapers from that 2010 championship and she's kept the shirt she wore throughout the tournament.

Safer conducted an study to see if fans hold onto the memories of losses as well. He asked Yankees and Red Sox fans to recall specific details of American League championship games in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  In one case the Yankees won, in the other case the Red Sox won.  Safer found fans have better memories of the games their teams win and tend to dismiss details of losses.

"You want to feel good about yourself and your team much more so than dwelling on the bad things," says Safer.

Wu says she can remember some details of big losses -- especially a painful loss to Kentucky in 1998.  But mostly, as a fan, she says she's learned to move on -- what Safer calls the "the wait 'til next year" phenomenon.  That may not help fans smarting from a recent loss, but could offer some hope that the agony of defeat will eventually fade away.

This story was informed in part by sources in WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories. Learn more about the Public Insight Network.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, July 30

You can keep things old school with a classic musical and an exhibit featuring watercolor paintings from the 1800s.

NPR

Farming The Bluefin Tuna, Tiger Of The Ocean, Is Not Without A Price

Scientists are trying to raise prized bluefin tuna completely in captivity. An experiment at a Baltimore university is the first successful attempt in North America.
NPR

Senate's Highway Trust Fund Bill Sets Up Conflict With The House

A short-term fix for the nearly empty Highway Trust Fund is a step closer to President Obama's desk. Congress has been talking about the long-term problems with the construction account, but the two chambers have not agreed on a long-term solution.
NPR

OkCupid Sometimes Messes A Bit With Love, In The Name Of Science

OkCupid, the online dating site, disclosed Monday that they sometimes manipulate their users' profiles for experiments.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.