Anthropological Behaviorism in Research on Social Competition

Being a student, when I read the sentence “Perspectives on Psychological Science” or “The Psychology of Competition”, I prepare myself for a meta exploration of the human mind and consciousnesses. Garcia’s The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective (2013; Association for Psychological Science) does address “cognitive accessibility or salience”, an aspect of cognitive psychology, however, Garcia relies on a far more empirical form of psychology known as Behaviorism to support his claims. Behaviorism’s “goal is to promote the scientific study of behavior”, as behavior is the observable portion of the conscious. Throughout the article, behavior is used as the means to observe competition between individuals and groups in relation to the amount of “social comparison” present. To explain and prove this relationship, Garcia develops a “framework” with the recognition that competition is a “complex behavioral phenomena” meaning that it is effected not only by individual factors but situational factors as well. I believe this was an important declaration because it stated the seemingly obvious: competition is at its most basic level, a behavior and needs to be studied as such. The research conducted and/or cited by Garcia capitalizes on competition’s operational qualities to observe competition and develop a framework for understanding it as a result of individual and situational factors.

As such, this article, along with the majority of the previously discussed articles, are research oriented. Werron for example, seeks to develop a “sociological research perspective on… type of competition”. Similarly, Molina suggests “that future modelling might explore in more detail the coexistence of cooperation and competition in different contexts”. While these articles do argue the value of further research, they argue it from an Anthropological standpoint. Garcia calls for “psychological research in helping invigorate the development of a unique psychological perspective in the interdisciplinary study of competition”. Thusly, he argues for more research from a psychological standpoint. I think the significance of behavioral research in this field is that it demystifies psychological research by contextualizing it with an observable phenomena. So, Garcia’s assessment about the form of competition’s reliance on the individual and situational factors of the society falls into line with the arguments made by previous authors: the form of competition is a product of the values that society imposes on the individual. The difference in this case being the form of research used to observe competitive behavior.


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