The ‘photo-finish effect’: when third place winners are happier than second

Laura Kudrna, a London School of Economics scholarship PhD candidate, researches the effects of achievement on happiness, particularly focusing on examples of when greater success – be it financial, academic, romantic, or athletic – do not translate into greater wellbeing for individuals or societies.

The study, carried out at the ESRC-funded Centre for Economic Performance, recently attracted national headlines. Here Laura gives us a more detailed overview.


Many of us have goals to be ‘better’ in some way. But does being better mean that we will be happier?

One of the most prominent examples of when greater success does not necessarily bring greater happiness is in the Olympics. Continue reading

Rio 2016 Olympics: Understanding outbreaks like the Zika virus

Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics, there has been much fear over the Zika virus epidemic currently ongoing in Brazil. High profile sport stars such as basketballer Stephen Curry and cyclist Tejay van Garderen, as well as seven of the world’s best golfers, have quoted the virus as a reason to pull out of the Games.

Here ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winner Professor Melissa Leach, Director at the Institute of Development Studies (and former Director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre), shows how social science can reveal vital socio-cultural dimensions and stories to help responses to epidemics such as the Zika virus.


Zika virus is the latest emerging infectious disease epidemic to hit global headlines. First identified in Uganda in 1947 and transmitted mainly by the Aedes aegyptii mosquito, the virus is now spreading rapidly across Latin America and beyond.

Many cases just have flu-like symptoms, but the virus is also blamed for complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and, most significantly, a dramatic upsurge in birth defects, including thousands of cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October 2015. Continue reading