In athletic competition, who is happier, individuals who finish in SECOND place, or individuals who finish in THIRD place?
Answer: Third place competitors!
In one study, David Matsumoto and Bob Willinham (Journal of personality and social psychology, 91 (3), 568-81), coded photographs of thousands of athletes only moments after they won or lost metals. They concluded that bronze medal winners looked nearly as happy as gold medal winners, while the expression of silver medalist more resembled those of fifth-place winners.
CONCLUSION: Silver medalists make upward comparisons (compare themselves to someone who did better) while bronze medalist make downward comparisons (to someone who did less well).