Find the Right Therapist

Find the Right Therapist

Advanced Search | Don't show me this again.



Losing team sitting while winners cheerAn underdog is a person, team, or other entity widely believed to have a poor chance of success, winning, or achieving some other goal.

What Is an Underdog?

There are underdogs in every walk of life, from business to sports. An underdog is anyone who is at a perceived disadvantage, who is perceived by others to be weak, who has a history of failure or challenges, or who people believe is likely to fail. Underdogs are commonly used in television and movies both as comic relief and as sources of inspiration and triumph. The television cartoon “Underdog,” for example, follows the triumphs and exploits of an unlikely canine superhero. Examples of an underdog might include:

  • A sports team with a long history of losing games or championship tournaments
  • A person with little formal education or preparation who is attempting to succeed in a challenging field
  • A political candidate who is a newcomer to politics or who people believe is highly likely to lose an election

Underdog Psychology

People often choose to root for the underdog, and most people love a story about an underdog triumphing against adversity. The reason for this may be that most people have been underdogs at some point in their lives because no one can succeed at every pursuit. When underdogs succeed, it can give people hope that effort, hard work, and hope can triumph in the face of immense adversity.


Being the underdog can have both positive and negative psychological effects. While underdogs are often given public acclaim when they win, the perception that an underdog is likely to fail can increase the likelihood of failure, harm self-esteem, and cause performance anxiety.



  1. Niemiec, R. N. (n.d.). The positive psychology of the underdog. Psych Central.com. Retrieved from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/character-strengths/2012/03/the-psychology-of-the-underdog/
  2. Why do we love the underdog? (2010, May 4). Freakonomics RSS. Retrieved from http://www.freakonomics.com/2010/05/04/why-do-we-love-the-underdog/


Last updated: 10-23-2014

Leave a Reply

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.




* = Required fields

Find the Right Therapist

Advanced Search | Browse Locations