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Food tastes better, and other side effects when your team is winning the game

Posted at 4:04 AM, Jan 30, 2019

Super fans could have more to look forward to on Sunday than an exciting game of football.

For those whose team takes home the trophy, several side effects could make the day even better, including how your food tastes and how you think about yourself.

The more you care about a team, the more you could feel these effects.

"So much of your identity gets wrapped up in the team," said Daniel Wann , a professor of psychology at Murray State University. "When the team does well or poorly ... it's as if you were one of the competitors, so you feel their successes as your own, because in a way, it is."

Your food tastes better

A 2015 study found that food tasted better to people when the team they supported was winning a game.

Robin Dando , an associate professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, and his fellow researchers used ice cream samples at university hockey games over a season to see how fans' taste perception changed, depending on the final score.

He and his colleagues found that people liked the flavors more on days when the team won. "When we looked at how they responded to these different flavors, in the games where they won, the flavors tasted sweeter and less sour, versus the opposite when they lost," Dando said.

One of their theories to explain this result is that when you're happy, you have more serotonin in your system, a "neurotransmitter linked very strongly with mood and affect." Having more of this coursing through your body because you had a good day could influence how things taste, as there are receptors for serotonin in our taste buds, Dando said.

It doesn't necessarily take into account the changes in taste found in their research, but according to Dando there could be another explanation for how much people liked the ice cream on the days when their team won.

"There is another, probably a more simplistic, interpretation," he said. "If you are in a really good mood, then it takes less to please you, and so something might taste a little bit better because your baseline is a little bit higher."

You feel smarter and more attractive

"Research shows that when a team is successful, people estimate their cognitive skills to be better. They estimate their social skills to be better. When a team is successful, they have a more positive outlook on life in general," Wann said.

He referenced research into people watching a college basketball game who were asked questions such as how many problems they thought they could solve or how likely someone was to go on a date with them.

"When the team won, they had a more positive outlook about their cognitive skills and their social skills," Wann said.

"Anything that is impacted by increases in positive mood are going to be increased by watching your team win," he said. "The research is pretty clear that it's going to boost your mood, increase your happiness, and anything related to that is going to go up."

You could end up spending more

This may not be a good side effect for you, but those working in bars and restaurants around big games could appreciate it.

"I've often thought that they should do a study that looks at tipping," Wann said. "I would think that after the team wins, the tips would be higher, because happy people tip more."

Additionally, he said, people celebrating a win are more likely to go out to eat or to purchase team memorabilia.

A win could even have an effect of the economy of a whole country.

"They've done research that shows that sometimes the outcome and the success and failure of national teams can be linked to the economy for a short period of time," Wann said, "because, again, happy people tend to spend money."

You could feel like you've gained some status

"Fans of teams get some of their sense of status and they display gains in status when their teams win, called Basking in Reflected Glory," wrote Paul Bernhardt , an associate professor of psychology at Frostburg State University, in an email.

Bernhardt has researched levels of testosterone in sports fans after watching their team win.

He and his colleagues and mentor found that those who watched their chosen team win -- either a college rivalry basketball game in person or the 1994 World Cup championship game at a watch party -- had higher testosterone levels.

Testosterone is associated with dominance-oriented behaviors and social behaviors in men, Bernhardt said; his study focused only on males.

"Sometimes, the dominance is aggressive in style, though usually not," he said. "More often, it's loud, brash behavior or other displays that exhibit a feeling of status gain."

He also pointed out that more recent findings imply that men with higher testosterone levels are "oriented towards reinforcing their social bonds," in situations where positive social behavior leads to gains in social status, meaning you could feel closer to your friends after a big win.

It's a way to escape

Though football -- or any sport -- could have these effects on viewers as their team wins or loses, it can also be a form of escapism for those who need it.

"People need to get out and let off some steam, whether it be from their jobs, whether it be from their marriages, whether it be from whatever else it may be, and sports allows for us to do that," said Richard Lustberg , a New York psychologist who works with athletes. The athletes are "entertainers, and they're great entertainers for those of us that like it."

However, he cautioned that people should not let a sport have that much of an effect on them.

"While I may be rooting for the Patriots at the Super Bowl, it's not going to end my life," he said. "It's not chemotherapy or radiation, so really, it's not going to have any effect on our life. ... If we are just talking about your regular, everyday kind of effect on my life: none!"