Competition is a phenomenon that has become increasingly evident to me both in my daily life as a university student and over the discourses I am often involved in of history, economics and politics. The article The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective made me realize how psychology, the study of human mind and its effects on behaviour, plays one of the most vital roles in recognizing the root causes of competition and the factors that affect the degree of competitive behaviour.
The authors, Garcia et al., focus on two basic sets of factors (individual and situational) that can increase our tendency to self-evaluate by comparing ourselves to others (social comparison) resulting in an increase of competitiveness and a variety of competitive attitudes and behaviour.
In order to understand social comparison theory, background information is provided which leads to the authors’ idea of comparison concerns – the desire to achieve or maintain a superior relative position.
The findings stated about the factors influencing comparison concerns seemed so apparent at first glance yet the article narrows it down in a way that truly highlights the extent to which relevance of a performance dimension, closeness to the target, and interpersonal closeness of relations increase comparison concerns, thus making it useful for an people interested in psychological science (a possible audience for this discourse), amongst others.
Personalities and the way they defer is an area that truly interests me so reading the examples and findings put forth in this article made me realize how subject to influence we are regardless of whether or not we are aware of it. Personal factors such as individual differences are mentioned in the article with competitive disposition being one of the examples of a variable that influences ones tendency towards exhibiting comparison concerns and competitiveness – this is prevalent whether we are aware of it or not which brings up the question of whether it is an inborn quality or developed over time.
In Batesons article she points out that we should rejoice in our need for each other and live interdependently which again brings up the question of whether we are predisposed to cooperate, and presents an opposing view on whether psychological factors causing us to be competitive adversely affects the anthropological perspective of cooperation.
Number of competitors (N) and its importance as a situational factor of social comparison was one section in the article I spent a significant portion of my time reflecting on, partly due to my contradicting thoughts of how, in a competition with a large number of competitors, an individual would have to try harder, put more effort and be more competitive to be a head above the crowd (to have a competitive advantage). This is especially present in the economic discourse from my experience. However, the article reflects on studies that have shown intensity of competitive behaviour increases as N decreases generally as a result of an expected value increase. One thing I particularly appreciate about this article was the inclusion of a variety of discourses because as I read on my contradicting thoughts were addressed in a section about business and strategy where it states their (the authors) model helps identify limits to the accepted wisdom in business strategy, which believes rivalry is most intense if competitors are numerous, by pointing out diminished competitiveness in large N settings.
In terms of criticism, the authors themselves bring forth a criticism which I had in mind of their article, and the study of competition from a psychological aspect as a whole, in their statement of how social comparison and competitiveness was not explicitly measured in the studies – thus showing how conclusions may be subjective since they are based off interpretations of behavioural and attitudinal indicators related to competitiveness.
However, it is just as necessary to understand the social and psychological aspects of a persons drive to compete since competition is so ubiquitous and understanding it better makes us self aware and creates avenues for future research regarding specific areas of competition.
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