Brotherly Love or Rivalry?

The article “The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective”, written by Stephen M. Garcia is an article that examines different factors that affect social comparison and competitiveness between different parties. He finds that research in competition has largely concerned business, economics, sociology and political science, neglecting social comparison scholarship. He sees that very baffling, because social comparison is an important element of competitive behaviour. The present framework therefore synthesizes early developments in social comparison theory with more recent ones into a coherent account of the key psychological forces that increase social comparison and, in turn, competitiveness. In my opinion, the points that he makes are relevant and true, however, they are also very simple and can be easily noticed. Therefore, I think that this framework is not complete and that there are other factors that influence competitive behaviour.

Before going into detail on Garcia’s arguments, we can see that this article is very similar to Werron’s article. Both arguments are very balanced, and they do not make comments on the effects of competitive behaviour between people, in their respective fields of interest. At the end, they both realize that there is still much more research to do.

Garcia sees only two factors that affect social comparison and competitive behaviour. These are: individual factors and situational factors. The individual factors that she recognizes are: similarity, relationship, and personal history with the target. In general, he emphasises that the closer we are to the target, the competition increases. This means that competition will be greater between good friends, then between strangers. We can see that this point is very true but also basic, in the sense that it is very intuitive. For example, it is clear that a rivalry between brothers will be much more genuine, then between strangers. With that being said, I think that he is missing out on at least one other factor- ambition. People’s ambitions vary and definitely influence how competitive they are. For example, a more ambitious person will always be more competitive then a less ambitious person. I do not see this behaviour changing for the time being.

On the other hand, situational factors include incentive structures, proximity to a standard, number of competitors, and social category fault lines. “Incentive structures, for one, are a common set of situational variables that can influence the social comparison process. “Zero-sum” situations, for example, where one party’s gain is another’s loss, may naturally and rationally increase actors’ concerns about their relative position”. Garcia writes that comparison concerns and competitiveness increase, first, in the proximity of a meaningful standard for comparison, such as the number one ranking or another qualitative performance threshold; second, as the number of competitors decreases; and third, when actors compare themselves with targets across social categories as opposed to intracategory targets. Here the elements are less obvious, however, after greater thought we can find most of them in our lives: we all try to be the best, and the less competitors we have around us the competition tends to be more genuine between the parties. Nevertheless, I would argue with the last point. I think that competitiveness increases when we compete within a social category rather the across social categories. The more similar we are to each other, the more competitive we will be. For example, female golfers will compete more with female golfers, and the same goes for male golfers who compete with other male golfers. The competition will be much less heated if a male golfer comes against a female golfer, just because their respective capabilities. Male golfers have much more power and strength, therefore, they will hit the ball further and have more control, giving them a big advantage over ladies. On the other hand, if a female goes up against a female then the capabilities are the same, and the competition will be much more heated.

In conclusion, we can see that in her review Garcia forgets one aspect influencing competitive behaviour. In my opinion, she forgets about ambition as an individual factor influencing social behaviour. I see this factor as very important, because the more ambitious we are, the more competitive we will be. The other point I wanted to mention was that, I do not think that competition is higher across social categories, then within them. I think that the competition is much more heated when a female competes with a female, and a male competes with a male. Other then that, I think that the arguments he makes are correct, however, they are very simple. As he said in his article, there is still a lot of space for research to be done on this topic.

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