You are on the right track——Reading Response for “The Psychology of Competition”


This research article mainly focused on indicating how social comparison led to competitive behaviors through the explanation of individual and situational factors, so I believe the specific perspective is social psychology. In the last part, the author also mentioned about how to extend the psychological research into economics, business, political science, law and public policy. Therefore, we could infer that the targeted discourse community not only encompasses psychologists, but also includes economists, businessmen, political scientists, lawyers, etc.

Indeed, when I was learning AP Psychology in high school, I was extremely shocked. I used to think that Psychology was more like a humanity arts subject, which was inclined to human emotions, feelings and thoughts. However, it studies human behaviors and mental processes by utilizing scientific methods, such as doing experiments, collecting data, and forming correlations, with the expression of intense amount of texts. Meanwhile, its broadness of application also deeply amazes me. It seems like every discipline is related with Psychology to some extent, since they all involve humans. Therefore, in my own argument, I will try to appeal to every individual and bestow enlightenment. From my point of view, comparison could be useful in some extents which keeps us alarmed and staying on the right track. However, too much comparison could lead to loss of confidence and doubt of self-value. If we could think from a different perspective, trying to compare the past selves with the current selves to track our own progresses, our lives would be more enriched and meaningful.

When I am comparing this Psychological science article with Molina’s research which is the anthropologist view, I find that both perspectives focused on the interaction and relevance among individuals within certain social categories (groups). The cooperation and comparison among individuals are based on a specific level of similarities. For example, A and B both have the same goal and their current abilities are roughly on the same level, so they might cooperate or compete with each other in order to achieve the target.

Obviously, the article was mainly trying to identify the causes of social comparison, which was “the tendency to self-evaluate by comparing ourselves to others”. In daily life, we cannot stop comparing ourselves with others. When we are at school, we compare grades. When we are working, we compare wages. When we are better than others, we have a sense of superiority. Nevertheless, this comparison is limitless. There will always be people who are more intelligent, wealthier and more famous than us. The comparison itself only overwhelms us with more depression, inferiority and anxiety. I am not suggesting that we cannot do comparison, since sometimes it’s also beneficial. If we compare with people who are worse than us, they serve as alarms, warning us not to lower the demands on ourselves. If we compare with people that are better than us, they serve as role models, encouraging us to work harder and achieve our goals. However, when we are focusing on comparing with others, we unintentionally ignore our own strengths and advantages. Comparison itself gives us burden and stress. The modern society is a no smoke battlefield. The peer pressure created by this “civilized competition” enhances a sense of distance and disharmonious within the environment.

Have we ever thought about this? Do what others have really matter to ourselves? Do what others are doing really influence us? How can we compare our love to someone? How do we compare the meaning of our lives? Albert Einstein once said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” I would like to change it into: “Not everything that counts can be compared, and not everything that can be compared counts.”

Last year, I saw an article on the website named “Living on your own timeline” It said: “Some people will go to college, graduate, and take 5 years to find a job. Some people will go to college, graduate, and find their dream job right out of school. Some people will go to college, never graduate, and never find their passion. Some people, like myself, won’t go to college, but will find their passion. You are on your own timelines, going down your own path, at your own pace. Don’t rush it.” We choose to do something at certain time only because that’s the right time for ourselves. What we have and want to have now are based on our current abilities and values. If life is a journey, we are all alone travelers who choose the right paths for ourselves. Someone may be faster ahead and someone may be left behind, but no one is the winner and no one is the loser. We are just on our own track. This is a lengthy and enduring “competition” with ourselves.

maslow's hierarchy of needs

When I am looking at the social comparison model of competition, the triangle inside the circle reminds me of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. It’s a triangle model with 5 layers. The bottom one is physiological need, with safety need on the fourth level, love and belonging on the third, esteem on the second and self-actualization on the top. Everyone is struggling at a different level. If we try to compare the past selves with the current selves, we will be exhilarated, since we all move up a level and become more all-rounded selves. Finally, we will all accomplish our ultimate goal, achieving self-actualization, although we may finish it at different ages. Along the way, we may be lost and found, imprisoning ourselves with endless comparisons of incentive, standard and recognition, but one day we will find “true me” back and fly freely on our own journeys.


Image sources:

Fehrenbacher, J. (n.d.). BIOS URN: Recycling life [Inhabitat]. Retrieved from

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Simply Psychology [Five stages pyramid]. (n.d.). Retrieved from



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