Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Spring, 1998

Basking in Glory and Cutting off Failure
Merritt Posten

02c.jpg (5001 bytes)     Why is it that the day after a "big win" everyone pulls out their old sweatshirts and tee shirts, that haven’t been worn since the team last won a game two years ago, and proudly displays their school colors or team logos? Or right after a team wins a championship the sales of their products sky rocket until another team wins the next year? This phenomena has been labeled by social psychologists as BIRGing and CORFing. BIRGing is an arconym for Basking in Reflected Glory and CORFing means Cutting Off Reflected Failure. One of the most influential studies of this phenomena was done by Cialdini et al. in 1976. et al. It provided the support for BIRGing by conducting a study that showed how undergraduate students at six different universities were more likely to wear their university affiliated apparel the Monday morning after a victorious football weekend. They also found that the college students were more likely to use the pronoun "we" after a successful athletic weekend than if their team had lost. The students sought to have the success of the team linked to themselves by wearing school identifying clothing.

    The concept of BIRGing is rooted in the social identity theory which explains how one’sballhead.gif (33242 bytes) self esteem and evaluation can be enhanced by the identification with another person’s success. One of the keys to BIRGing is that the person trying to receive this glory has done nothing tangible to bring the team’s success (Hirt et al. 1992). They are truly basking in reflected glory not earned. When a person’s public image is threatened the tendency to BIRG is even stronger, and BIRGing becomes an important impression management technique to counter any threats to self esteem (Lee 1985). [photo courtesy of Sparodi & the Florida Marlins]

    The different levels of commitment that a fan might have towards a team dictate the degree to which he or she can distance him or herself from that team when failure occurs. bulls.gif (41826 bytes)If a fan is strongly allied, the social identity theory states that it will be hard for them to distance themselves, and therefore, to not threaten their self esteem, the fans must attribute the loss to external cues of the situation but not the team itself. If a person is not so closely linked they then engage in the phenomena of CORFing, which means cutting off reflected failure, done by distancing themselves as far as possible from the losing team. (Cialdini & Richardson 1980). These fans want to avoid any negative evaluations by others in relation to the team that was unsuccessful. The closer the identification to the team and the degree of commitment by the fan, the greater the risk the fan has of suffering a loss in self esteem if their team has lost. [graphic courtesy of Jeremy's Chicago Bulls Page.]

    Fans CORF in a variety of different ways. For example one might change the language they use to describe the game after a defeat or after a win. For example a Knicks basketball fan might not even know the psychological defenses he or she is using when they say, "We won" when the Knicks won and "They lost" or "the Knicks lost" when the team suffered a defeat. Fans might also distance themselves from the team by not wearing any team affiliated clothing after a loss and not supporting the team until mainhawk4.gif (6203 bytes)they win again. But as soon as the team is victorious, the individual will waste no time in associating with the team once again (Hirt et al. 1992).

    Another way that fans can CORF is by "blasting". Blasting is a form of indirect self enhancement used when when self esteem is threatened. Cialdini and Richardson (1980) found and illustrated this phenomena by how university undergraduates blasted (criticized and degraded) the other universities when they received negative information about their own school. "Therefore if we wish to look good to observers, one option available to us would be to make those with whom we are negatively connected with look bad: to publicly blast the opposition"(Cialdini et al. 1980).

Back to Top
Back to Intro Page

Learn More About:
Ingroup/Outgroup Bias Social Identity Theory BIRGing and CORFing Deindividuation

Back To Psy 324 Home Page
Back to Psybersite

Please note:  Original materials in these pages can be used for research and education, but please credit the authors and the source.  All copyrighted materials are used here with permission and may not be reused without contacting the copyright holder.

Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 23:10:45 . This document has been accessed 1 times since 1 Jan 1998. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman