Should Winners Be Grinners?
Christopher Philip

You just scored a wicked goal in a friendly competition. Should you show your pride by thrusting your arms up in the air, tilt you head back and paste a giant grin across your face?

According to researchers Elise Kalokerinos and Katharine H. Greenaway, The University of Queensland and David Pedder, Australian Catholic University, probably not.

In their paper, which is one of the first to ever measure the negative effects of displaying positive emotions, they find that while in most cases social outcomes improve when emotional suppression is not inhibited, in competition, not being humble, can lead to undesirable effects.

Over three studies, it was found that inexpressive winners were rated as lower in hubristic, and also more likely to attract others as friends than more expressive winners. It was also found that inexpressive winners were perceived as actively suppressive their positive emotions.

The researchers surmise that inexpressive winners are viewed by others as being more prosocial and are therefore willing to protect the loser’s feelings.

Other research has found that happier people are rated more positively across many factors including likability, warmth, friendliness and intelligence, but in this case, displaying outright happiness, at least when it is against an opponent, confers a social cost.

“The current findings suggest that there are contexts in which it is useful and necessary to reduce the expression of positive emotions. There may still be personal costs to suppressing positive emotions in outperformance contexts, but these costs may be outweighed by the social benefits gained by appearing humble in victory.”


Kalokerinos, Elise K.; Katharine H. Greenaway; David J. Pedder and Elise A. Margetts. Don’t Grin When You Win: The Social Costs of Positive Emotion. Emotion. 2013. 2014. 14(1): 180-186.