How the Super Bowl Affects your Worldview

Your favorite team made the Super Bowl. The top. The apex. Your team is now one of the best two teams in all of football, and may end up being the very best when it’s all over. It’s been a long journey, but your team climbed the mountain and now they stand above all others. It feels pretty good. But feeling good because your team is on top may be taking its effects on how you, the fan, perceive the world. The success of your favorite team might be rubbing off on your view of the world.

A Super Bowl Study
Fans from each team from this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII (Seahawks and Broncos) were asked about their level of social dominance orientation (SDO). SDO comes from social psychology; it captures people’s overall outlook on the world. Typically, people who are high in SDO are dominant, driven, tough, and relatively uncaring seekers of power1. More socially dominant people agree with statements such as, “Some groups of people are simply more worthy than others” or “To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on other groups.” Twenty minutes after Super Bowl XLVIII ended, fans from each team were question as to their SDO. Three weeks later,185 of these same fans had their level of social dominance measured again.
Figure 1. Fan SDO ratings 20 minutes and 3 weeks after the Super Bowl

The Results
We found that right after the Super Bowl, fans of each team (Seahawks and Broncos) had an average SDO of 2.442. However, three weeks later, fans reported lower levels of SDO3 than they had immediately after the game (Figure 1). Fans were not particularly socially dominant to begin with, but the drop from 20 minutes to 3 weeks after the Super Bowl ended is notable.

I See Therefore I Feel

What is clear is that something happens to fans as time elapses after the Super Bowl. Fans report feeling less socially dominant, seeing the world as less dog-eat-dog. So does the Super Bowl cause people to be more socially dominant in the first place? Maybe. What is unknown is just how socially dominant people were before the Super Bowl. Knowing this might help draw conclusions. What is known, however, is that 3 weeks after the Super Bowl, fans’ perceptions of the world were different than immediately following the end of the game.

Sports may be having a greater effect on us than we would like to believe. Other research has found that a team’s performance may affect how others perceive us; our propensity for problem behaviors such as aggression4, cheating5, or bullying6; and even our overall mental well-being7. Our findings here suggest that when it comes to major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, the line between our team’s outcomes and our own outlooks becomes blurred. Combined, it appears that we as fans seem to be truly living the experience — vicariously sharing the fate of our beloved team.


2 The items were rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree).

3 t(184)= 3.47, p < .01

4 Donohue & Wann (2009); End & Foster (2010)

5 Bernache-Assoilant & Chantal (2009)

6Courtney and Wann (2010)

7 Wann, Waddill, Polk, & Weaver (2011); Wann, Friedman, McHale, & Jaffe (2003)

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