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Yoram Kraus: Mind Games

brain-Mind Games yoram kraus

 Yoram Kraus: Mind Games – The sentiment of winning

By Yoram Kraus

Certain videos of France’s World Cup celebrations went viral as areas of the French capital escalated into riots. But what exactly is it about winning that is so dangerously thrilling?

The answer partly lies in our bloodstream. Psychologists have studied the effects of increased levels of substances in the body including endorphins, cortisol, serotonin and testosterone when we are participating in competitive events. Further research by Dr Theodore Kemper, who was interested in the effects of ‘vicarious’ hormonal changes when watching a game, proposed that watching your team play competitive sport produces similar hormonal increases in spectators as those taking part.

Researchers studying Spanish football fans as their team played in the 2010 World Cup final found surges in testosterone and cortisol in both women and men. They reported that in the context of a competition, these increases can be explained by the social self-preservation theory. This theory suggests that hormone levels increase where social status or acceptance is threatened (whether as a result of, for example, being part of a certain social group or for reasons beyond their control such as their team performing poorly). Therefore, when winning is felt on a national level, albeit from a spectator perspective, hormones are triggered unanimously on a massive scale. The intensity of the emotion combined with the scale of which it is experienced can result in the sensation of a unified and bonded experience.

Moreover, when a team eventually loses, a change in hormones can trigger an unsavory reaction.  A different chemical, norepinephrine, regulates our experience of negative emotions and can influence the feeling of agony during defeat and can evoke feelings of fear, anger and sadness. In fact, the National Centre for Domestic Violence in the UK were able to draw on findings from the three previous World Cups to discover a 38% increase in reports of domestic abuse when England lost. Their World Cup campaign ‘If England gets beaten, so will she’ and provocative imagery, cut through elated national sentiment and delivered a somber reminder to all of the darker side of competition. Social media was instrumental in delivering this campaign and it also tapped into the psyche of the masses.  Hashtags such as #Itscominghome rapidly built buzz and gained traction to drive the English national feeling of pride and hope in bringing home the trophy after fifty-two years.

Moreover, in a racially charged global climate characterized by tighter immigration policies, the vastly multi-ethnic and multi-religious British and French teams highlighted the importance and contribution of diversity in society. The jubilant faces of the French team conveyed how immigration can unify a nation around their sporting triumphs and inherently help build cultural bridges.  In essence, the World Cup had a psychological impact on a human rights level by giving people a rejuvenated reason to feel hope on an introspective level. Indeed, research has shown that the same brain circuitry is involved in extreme emotions of love and hate and so arguably predisposed feelings of negativity could be re-wired to positivity.

Clearly, the aspects of winning and losing psychologically affect us a nation. As infibond’s Head of Extreme Behavioral Risk Dr. Michal Morag explains,

“Hormones released during and after watching competitive sports triggers a positive or negative reaction. Whether it’s anger and frustration after defeat or elation after victory, these reactions create a unifying experience and have the ability to change national sentiment”.

About Yoram Kraus

Yoram Kraus, Infibond Co-Founder & CEO

Yoram Kraus is a serial entrepreneur, with several investments in high tech over the past decade. He has more than 20 years of entrepreneurship in real estate & global engineering projects, and is the founder of the second-largest REIT fund in Israel. He has a degree in Civil Engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, he served as an intelligence officer in the IDF special forces and is a keen mountaineer and extreme sportsman.

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