Friday, February 15, 2013

From Fan to Fat? Vicarious Losing Increases Unhealthy Eating but Self-Affirmation is an Effective Remedy

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Psychological Science 24, 10 (2013) 1936-1946

Using archival and experimental data, we show that vicarious defeats experienced by fans when their favorite football team loses lead them to consume less healthy food. On the Mondays following a Sunday NFL game, saturated fat and food calorie intake increase significantly in losing cities, decrease in winning cities, and remain at their usual levels in comparable cities without an NFL team or with an NFL team that did not play. These effects are greater in cities with the most committed fans, when the opponents are more evenly matched, and when the defeats are narrow. We find similar results when measuring the actual or intended food consumption of French fans who had previously been asked to write about or watch highlights from important soccer victories or defeats. However, these unhealthy consequences of vicarious defeats disappear when supporters spontaneously self-affirm, or when they are given the opportunity to do so.