I read an article about Meryl Streep’s interview with ABC news on Oscar nomination. Meryl Streep was quoted as saying,
while it’s an honor, sometimes you wind up feeling “worse when you lose than you did before you got nominated.”
When you see many movies promoting even the nomination of the lead actors it might seem surprising that Ms.Streep feels getting nominated and not winning is worse than not getting nominated at all. An explanation to this come from Behavioral Economics. Professor Dan Ariely, the author of the book Predictably Irrational, explains this as “Upward Comparison“. He explains a study that found silver medalists in Olympics to be less happier than bronze medalists.
Silver medalists at the Olympics seem to perform what we call an upward comparison — they compare themselves against someone better off than them. Bronze medalists seem to perform downward comparison — they tend to compare themselves with people who did worse.
In the Oscar case there are no bronze nominees , everyone who was nominated but did not win are the silver medalists who find themselves too close yet too far. On the other hand when they were not nominated most tend compare to many others who are not and take solace in media criticism of nomination committee that overlooked certain key performances.
One addition to the upward comparison explanation is the long expectation period from nomination to awards night during which the nominees may build up expectation and hope which was not there before they were nominated.
When the field narrows and the hope builds the loss looks more than it actually is.