Their initial tests were carried out with football fans, by measuring their emotional state. It turned out that, on average, uncertainty about a match result can increase the probability of unhappiness by 13.6%. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
The scholars took a sample of 10,000 photos, which were published on the official VK accounts of football clubs over the 2014/15–2017/18 seasons. More specifically, accounts that received a lot of attention on social media were chosen: Spartak, CSKA, Dynamo, Rubin, and Zenit. The authors employed emotion recognition software to analyze the fans’ photos of stadiums and compared them with team stats.
On average, uncertainty about match results negatively impacted fan happiness, increasing the probability of them feeling unhappy by 13.6%. Meanwhile, this factor tended to impact males less than females. Furthermore, uncertainty even increases the probability of men being extremely happy, unlike women.
Some of the results were predictable, such as a win reducing the probability of fans being unhappy, and this effect becomes stronger for the later rounds of national championships. However, it turned out that a change in happiness following a home team win is stronger for males, even though they might be less inclined to express their emotions openly. Furthermore, the study showed that men may be happy even if their team loses. It is also interesting to note that Spartak fans tend to express happiness 25% more often than Dynamo fans.
‘Football is part of the entertainment industry. Therefore, it’s very important to understand what generates positive emotions among fans. Emotional analysis based on photos means that we can objectively detect fan preferences, while also determining what kind of performance they want to watch. We also believe that monitoring fans’ emotions may serve as a basis for new analytics in football,’ notes Iuliia Naidenova, Junior Research Fellow at the HSE International Laboratory of Intangible-driven Economy.
The method used at HSE University to measure subjective well-being may be useful for different types of happiness studies, since emotional recognition is more reliable and less costly. It could also be used for self-assessment surveys. As for sports professionals, this approach may help them recognize violent fans in real time, which can help prevent fights and other incidents.