Compete Against Friends?

As an Associate Professor of Psychology and of Organizational Studies at the University of Michigan, Stephen Garcia discourses the competition from a social comparison perspective. By setting up a new model to distinguish between the individual and situational factors, it illustrates that all those factors would increase social comparison, and that finally would cause competitive behavior and attitudes.

According to the reading, there are three variables that increase comparison concerns. One of them is the degree of the actor’s relationship closeness to the target with the situation that comparison concerns are stronger when the relationship between the actors and their targets are closer. In other words, Garcia suggests that people much easily treat their friends as rivals. It probably can be explained by the directions of social comparison. First of all, upward comparison focuses on targets who perform better. In order to stay in a superior relative position, people will consciously or unconsciously compete with those targets. Especially with their friends, as most of them have the same interests, the same characteristics and even the same abilities, they are commonly considered that enjoy a large similarity, which is an individual factor of competitiveness, than other strangers. On the other hand, downward comparison, to some extent, lead to a negative competition. It shows people would compare to those who perform worse now, but have a great potential to become outstanding, which means the situation can be transferred into the upward one. Compared to the former one, I suppose this one will be more threatening, because it can be shocking to see your target go up from the position that is behind you to the advanced part in a short time. Therefore, several studies show that participants provided fewer helpful clues to their friends, and even gave more hostile evaluations of friends.
The phenomenon that competes with friends mentioned above should be studied on the standing of psychology. Why we feel more aggressive when our friends are better than us or tend to outdo us? The most critical reason is human’s self-defense, which will enforce people to protect themselves from targets’ potential risks. As the closeness with friends, who understand you pretty much, it’s no doubt that peoples’ ideas can be caught without speaking by their friends. This type of understanding is also a form of hurt, which a person knows enough about the other one, he may get control of other’s weakness. It means that people will be vulnerable at some points, which is harmful for them to maintain the status among friends, so people prefer to become anticipate, rejecting or obstructing targets’ ways to success. That’s why they are not willing to help their friends in the competition.

Linking to “Cooperation and Competition in Social Anthropology”, Molina suggests that when there is a single encounter, it’s more beneficial to defect than cooperate, and if individuals meet each other repeatedly, cooperation will be more beneficial, based on the direct reciprocity principle. It seems to be conflicted with Garcia’s argument, which admits that more competitions through social comparison with friends, however, it also proves that not only the competition with friends, but also such different kinds of competition, all those things will encourage people to have better performance.

Overall, although the competition among close people is inevitable and sometimes suffers people, they can gain a great improvement if they are able to keep the balance between competition and friendship.


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