What happens when the Eagles win or lose: 4 lessons from the science of fan psychology

Eagles fans

Understanding Eagles fans is not easy. Just take a look at this guy from after the Dallas Cowboys game:

But a few scientists have dared attempt the nigh-impossible: To enter the minds of fans like these. Here’s a rundown of their findings, the fan psychology that might help explain what’s going on in your head and in your body if you’re an Eagles fan who’s had to deal with all the frustration over the years.

A loss of testosterone

Yes, athletes might not be the only ones in need of a little performance boost at times. After the Eagles’ first two losses, fans might not have been able to engage in sexual activities or win fights thanks to the Eagles.

A widely-cited study from the late 90s by Paul C. Bernhardt and other researchers found that wins and losses of the teams we follow “extend beyond changes in mood and self esteem.” They actually affect us chemically. When our team wins, testosterone levels rise. When our team loses, testosterone levels drop (about 20 percent each way). Testosterone production helps with sex drive and fighting ability.  

In other words, hopefully you didn’t punch a Dallas fan after the Eagles lost to the Cowboys a couple of weeks ago. It probably didn’t turn out too well.

Forsaking the loss but not the team

The psychologist Robert Cialdini coined the term “Basking in Reflected Glory” to describe fans treating victories by aligning themselves even closer with their favorite teams. More people wear their teams’ shirts and refer to the team as “we.” Losses cause the opposite. Fans distance themselves. Psychologists termed it “Cutting Off Reflected Failure.” Fans who CORF would start calling the Eagles the Eagles instead of “we,” and they might not wear Eagles colors as readily. But they don’t forsake the team. People who CORF after Eagles losses would spend more energy criticizing rival teams and blaming losses on something else.   

The trustworthiness of an Eagles fan

No matter how bad the idea is, it might make sense if it comes from another Eagles fan. Daniel Wann, a professor at Murray State, found that there is a positive relationship between team identity and trustworthiness.

Misery is happiness

Even that guy freaking out in the video above is probably in a better mood than he would be if the Eagles didn’t exist. No matter how bad the Eagles are, Eagles fans are likely still happy to be fans of a team that stinks. Research has shown over and over that identifying with a sports team is good for your psychological health because sports are social. So many others like teams and as a fan you should have plenty of people to talk to about the object of your affection and to commiserate with after a loss.

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