The researchers discovered that the Ohio State fans who at some point during the game were convinced their team would lose ended up thinking the game was the most thrilling and satisfying.
Knobloch-Westerwick, who prefers reading crime fiction to watching sports, summed up the results this way: "Sports fans seek out the 'risky' entertainment of sports [risky because 'their' team might lose after all, which creates disappointment], probably because the intense connection to 'their' team, as well as the real threat of losing the game, create intense suspense -- instead of going for something with a guaranteed happy ending, such as the typical holiday suspense movie."
One outside expert said the study findings echoed previous research that has tackled entertainment and suspense theories.
Stuart Fishoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and emeritus professor at California State University, Los Angeles, said that another way to measure a fan's state of mind is to study reactions from game to game or from season to season and assess who the fan surrounds himself --- or herself -- with while watching those games.
Fishoff added that the new findings can also provide insights beyond the sports-entertainment arena. "You can apply what you learned here to health care -- what do you do to reduce people's anxiety in medical situations?"
For more on the psychology of sports fans, visit Miami University.
SOURCES: Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, Ph.D., associate professor, communication, and Prabu Davi
All rights reserved