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Why bother making a March Madness bracket when you know you'll probably lose?

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BY MAX DARROW, KSNV

LAS VEGAS (CIRCA via KSNV) — For some folks, March Madness has already tipped-off, with the two play in games. However, the Round of 64 begins on Thursday, locking in picks for everyone who made a bracket.

Most people won't win their pools, but according to UNLV Assistant Professor of Psychology Stephen Benning, the thrill keeps people playing.

“The wins are so improbable, especially if you’re a fan of the underdog, that you may not ever get to like what’s going on, you may not savor the sweet reward of victory," Benning said. "But, the process of anticipating a possible good reward is sufficient to stimulate neurochemicals that are associated with a positive feeling of this expectation, of wanting something."

In many cases, Benning explains that positive feeling often is enough to outweigh the feeling of losing.

“For some people, just the idea that it could happen gives them enough hope to get through what might be a tough work day, gives them something to look forward to outside of a hum-drum life," he said. “Most people are having these low stakes kinds of wagers that don’t impact their ability to go about their every day lives.”

Gregory Paddison is visiting Las Vegas, made a bracket, and plans to bet a little bit on a few games. He doesn't expect his bracket will be the winner in his pool, but he says playing is worth the price of admission.

"It gives you an excuse to root for something you otherwise wouldn't root for, or care about," Paddison said.

The losses, to him, are minimal, and are nothing to fret about. However, if he starts to win and his teams make a deep run in the tournament, he says losing will hurt more.

"Early on, it doesn't bother you," he said. "But when you get in close, and think you might have a shot at it - and then you bail out, yeah a little sting in the heart."

In some cases where a person is rooting on their favorite team, the possibility of a win is even sweeter than the possible sting of a loss, according to Benning.

“Just by being engaged in this whole process, it could bring up so many other pleasant associations, so many other good thoughts, that it’s worth the loss," he said.

The psychologist's advice?

“Keep the losses manageable, and enjoy the rush of possibility," he said.

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