Competition is everywhere… can it be in even more places? (P05 Reading Response – Psychology of Competition)


Competition is everywhere, it is hard for me to think of a time in which I wouldn’t be able to turn a social context into a competition. Some common social events are eating with friends, going on a run, or even taking someone out for dinner. These three can be turned into competition by trying to eat faster than your friends to get more portions, beating a personal best while running, and ensuring that your partner stays with you so that he/she can’t be anyone else’s. Garcia and his fellow authors argue that competition can be analyzed through the lens of social comparison. They state that multiple internal and external factors can influence people into utilizing their competitive behavior under the assumption that everyone is naturally propelled to improve. While I agree with this point of view, I also think that it’s scope can be expanded to cooperation and competition with one’s self.

Views on Garcia’s theory:

My stance on this argument is one that agrees with this point of view. As stated in the paper, as well as in personal experience, whenever people compete they tend to feel the pressure of either overcoming an obstacle (when the skill level of their opponent is equal or higher) or the possibility of an upset (when the opponent’s skill level is lower). Something that also contributes to competition are the outside factors. This is the basis of how today’s famous sports leagues and cups are structured (e.g. NBA, Barclays Premier League, FIFA World Cup). The incentive structures are the financial awards for winners. The standards to approximate with are the other people/teams competed against in a league-wide table. The social structures are the fanbases of the leagues, which are often divided between countries or cities, and the number of competitors is often determined with either approval of competition bids or a promotion/relegation system between different levels of the leagues. These examples are evidence of the social comparison analysis taking place in what people do and see every day, and can be applied to plenty of other scopes, as stated in the research paper.

Competition with oneself:

In my opinion, competition doesn’t even have to take place between more than 1 person, as Garcia et al. argues, since it can be against one’s previous best abilities (whether they were better or worse). In today’s world, that is the basis of what records are, and Garcia’s assumed desire to improve is what drive people to accomplish “personal bests”. Knowing that Guinness World Records, the world’s leading documenter of records, doesn’t pay the record holders, as well as the fact that they have over 40,000 records in their database, of which only 10% gets published, it can be said that recognition or financial incentives are not present in the pursuit of records. Also, with the constant updating of records, it is likely that people seek to improve on their own records by improving their abilities in order to have even better personal bests.

Competition and cooperation:

In a contrast to Bateson’s paper, I would argue that competition would be able to take place within a cooperative society that she envisions. Today’s current capitalist businesses are examples of that. By having incentives in the form of better payments upon job promotion and a hierarchical structure that gives better rewards to the people who have higher positions in the workplace, employees are more willing to work and become more satisfied with their jobs. This is because “expectations play an important role in determining a worker’s job satisfaction” (Koestas, 2010). This enables more efficient production between and among employees which the leaders can then utilize for a business to produce a better output of goods or services, which is synonymic to cooperation.

Final thoughts (conclusions):

Competition is everywhere because people naturally seek to get better, at least according to Garcia. In my agreement with this statement, I believe that this thought can expand beyond the scope of competition amongst individuals towards competition within individuals, as well as take place in a cooperative environment. Competition is something that drives society forward, and it is one’s ability to implement it in various contexts that causes him/her to improve as an individual.

(image credits to Valve)

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