Victories in sports are sweet, but who would have ever thought that a defeat can be pretty sweet, too?
A new Cornell University study shows how athletes' emotional states can affect the perception of their taste and why losing a big game will have a team more likely to reach for some sweets.
"We determined how emotions arising from the outcome of college hockey games influenced the perception of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami taste, in addition to hedonic responses, or how much they liked or disliked the foods," Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said via a Cornell published report. "Emotional manipulations in the form of pleasantly or unpleasantly perceived real-life events can influence the perception of taste, driving the acceptability of foods. These results imply that such modulation of taste perception could promote emotional eating in times of negative emotion."
That means, while the United States women's national team was celebrating its World Cup victory last Sunday (July 5), runner-up Japan might have been emotionally eating sweets. Ditto for tennis great Roger Federer after losing the Wimbledon championship match to Novak Djokovic in London on Sunday (July 12).
Dando further explains that this study shows that negative emotions—such as losing in sports—can alter the pleasurable experience of less-palatable food.
"In times of negative affect, foods of a less pleasurable nature become even more unappealing to taste, as more hedonically pleasing foods remain pleasurable," Dando continued to explain. "This is why when the team wins, we're OK with our regular routine foods, but when they lose, we'll be reaching for the ice cream."
Ice cream after losing the big game? Not the worst thing in the world, right?