Office pool bets may lead to March madness

Research shows betting induces anxiety

Planning to enter an office pool during this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament? Be careful.


You might not enjoy the games very much if you bet, says a researcher at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Predictions become more aversive when the outcome of the event is highly uncertain,” as in the upcoming basketball tournament, says Stephen M. Nowlis, PhD, the August A. Busch, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Marketing.

Nowlis is co-author of a 2008 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research titled “The Effect of Making a Prediction About the Outcome of a Consumption Experience on the Enjoyment of That Experience.”

The current popularity of office pools, spoiler message boards and online betting sites seems to suggest that the act of prediction increases enjoyment of watching a sporting event.

However, in a series of four experiments, Nowlis found that consumers who make predictions about uncertain events experience significantly less enjoyment while observing the events than those who don’t make predictions.

“We thought the opposite would be true,” Nowlis says. “We explain our results in terms of anticipated regret. In fact, removing the source of anticipated regret eliminates the negative effect of prediction on enjoyment.”

Even if you think you are absolutely sure you know the team that will win this year’s tournament, you may still not have much fun if you lay down some money.

“One compelling finding from our studies was that, among those who made predictions, participants who were correct enjoyed the event no more than those who were incorrect,” Nowlis says.