An associate professor of psychology at the Universoty of Florida found that, in several studies, participants were drawn to the underdog because they believed he worked harder and was, therefore, deserving of his success. This is true not only in the business world but in sports, as well. In the context of Olympic games, the people who participated in the survey said they were more apt to root for the athlete who was least likely to win, but who was also trying harder and getting very little in return for all of his efforts. People, it seems, don't just randomly love ALL underdogs, especially the ones that are seen as lazy and apathetic. What do love are the underdogs who try really hard, even without much chance of success. As it turns out, we love a fighter; someone who doesn't give up.
In a follow-up study, participants were asked to read about a team that was predicted to lose in an upcoming sporting event. They were described as being an underdog because they had less financial resources than their opponent. Having just this one fact to go, the study participants didn't necessarily favor them. This suggested, researchers said just lacking money wasn't enough to "rally the troops."
It would make sense that if you want to feel good about yourself, you'd always want to go with the odds-on favorite. Right? Curiously enough, this isn't the case. More often than not, we will choose the underdog. Why is that? Research has shown that we like to back the person, or team who, we see as having their back against the wall. It's not that we like to intentionally back losers, but we like to see someone "beat the odds." This stems from the basic morality of fairness; a deep sense inside all humans that dicates hard work should be compensated. In work, that translates into salary and position. The harder we work the more money we should make, or so it's thought. This belief is emotional for us and, most probably, has evolutionary roots. We can observe this same belief in primates.
We love underdogs for a variety of reasons but the most important of them is the common belief that hard work and dedication deserves to be rewarded, which the underdog rarely sees. From time-to-time, we've all felt like the underdog or, at the very least, we've supported one.
Hard work, dedication, and success should go-hand-in-hand but, as we know all to often, doesn't always happen. That's why it's wonderful to support our friends and family in whatever they do, even if the rest of world does give 'em much of a chance. There's no better feeling than coming from behind and winning...just ask any turtle!