Tag Archives: Counterfactuals

Coulda, woulda, shoulda: Why silver medalists look so blue.

Getty Images/Thomas Coex

McKayla Maroney is not impressed.

Can you blame her? After a solid week of being touted as the “world’s best vaulter,” she came up short at the individual vault event, earning a silver medal after an unanticipated fall during her second vault.

“If only I’d stuck the landing,” reads the look on Maroney’s face. In other words, Maroney was most likely engaging in counterfactual thinking, otherwise known as those pesky “coulda, woulda, shouldas.”

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

But why would Maroney look so upset? After all, she did earn a silver medal — a fairly impressive feat, by anyone’s standards. And why does the bronze medalist, Russian gymnast Maria Paseka, look so much happier than Maroney?

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Seeing the 1960s forest for the Mad Men trees.

Doesn’t it feel sometimes like the trendy thing to do is reminisce about the past?

Joan Harris (nee Holloway) on "Mad Men"

With the return of AMC’s Mad Men on Sunday, a legion of fans will be tuning in to marvel at Joan’s bodacious curves, Roger and Don’s alcohol-soaked workplace antics, and Betty Draper’s disturbingly standoffish take on parenting. Stephen King’s popular new book 11/22/63 is about a man who travels back in time to 1958. Shows like Pan Am and Playboy Club debuted this year, hoping to capitalize on audiences’ apparent love for reminiscing. It even seems like fashion has pivoted back towards the past, with retro dresses popping up in store windows across the country. But as we all sit around and revel in the nostalgic quirks of the 1960s, is there anything psychological going on beneath the surface?

There’s a fairly straightforward reason why we love to reminisce; feeling “nostalgic” tends to be associated with a variety of positive emotions, like happiness, social connection, and positive feelings about oneself. However, nostalgia might also have some sneaky side effects.

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