You’ll feel proud if you play to win

"Our advice is for people to focus on what they can achieve rather than on what they can lose," David Conroy says. (Credit: Marc Pope/Flickr)

If you compete and your goal is to win, you’re more likely to feel pride rather than shame about the results.

Psychologists studied the motivations of college student playing the video game Tetris. The participants were instructed to earn as many points as possible. Before each round, one of four different criteria for earning a point was presented onscreen, the goal of which was to elicit different achievement goals among the participants.

Immediately following each round, the researchers provided the participants with bogus feedback and the participants rated their shame and pride.


“Our research suggests that when your goal is to outperform others, your feelings of pride will be amplified when you succeed,” says Amanda Rebar, a postdoctoral researcher at Central Queensland University, “but when your goal is to avoid being outperformed by others, your feelings of shame will be amplified when you fail.”

David Conroy, professor of kinesiology, Penn State, says the results suggest that motivations matters. “[A] person’s motivation and purpose regarding a task—whether that task is a video game, a race, or an academic exam—impacts the amount of pride or shame he or she will experience in response to success or failure,” Conroy says.

“And the amount of pride or shame a person feels can influence whether he or she will persist in the task or drop out.”

The results appeared in journal Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology.

Shame can hurt performance

According to the researchers, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing for people to focus on their performances relative to others.

“Pride is known to invoke a boost of confidence, persistence, and problem-solving ability, which can help people perform at their best,” Rebar says.

But shame, on the other hand, can cause problems.

“If a baseball player is the first to strike out in a game, his shame may cause him to become distracted or to worry too much about his precise movements, both of which can hurt his performance,” she says.

“Our advice is for people to focus on what they can achieve rather than on what they can lose,” Conroy says. “It may be particularly helpful if coaches and teachers understand these results so they can help influence their athletes’ and students’ achievement goals so as to minimize feelings that can hurt performance.”

Source: Penn State