‘The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective’ opens discussing the idea that humans have an innate will to “drive upward”, resulting in social comparison. Before beginning the deep dive into competition we are all participating in, this was my thought process as to what fuelled competition. After reading the papers and texts associated with this course, I have gained many new perspectives on the role competition plays in our lives. Although Psychology calls for a different approach to the study of competition, I find it very interesting how it acts as a backbone to all of the readings we’ve read and for the study of competition as whole. I believe that social comparison is an inherently primal instinct, and no matter the social circle or ideological practice, it will always result in competition or competitiveness.
Lions tend to hunt in prides, and a hierarchical structure determines who will eat first. Within the hierarchy, divides are generally made based on age and gender. These social fault lines create the dynamic in which a pride of Lions would compete for food. A male Cub wouldn’t try to eat before a Lioness, knowing very well she is above him on the hierarchy (https://www.felineworlds.com/lion-social-structure/). The similarity, proximity, and relevance a male cub has with another male cub fuels direct social comparison and therefore, competition. There are both individual, and situational factors at play in this primal example of the ‘social comparison model of competition’.
Estill I. Green said: “Clearly no group can as an entity create ideas. Only individuals can do this. A group of individuals may, however, stimulate one another in the creation of ideas.” Molina describes cooperation and competition coexisting in all known societies. I see an interesting connection between this and the social comparison theory in how we work with others (Cooperation) to maximize our individual situation (Competition). An individual Lion has a very difficult time hunting alone, but when hunting in a group all of the Lions benefit, whilst also being individually satiated.
Differing cultural influence plays a role in ones relationship with competitiveness, as Garcia underlined as a limitation to the research, discussing how certain cultural norms address social comparison. Bateson spoke about the switch in Western culture at a young age from being completely interdependent, to the promotion of dependance and individuality. From the field of Psychology, what Bateson discusses could be attributed to social comparison, with culture as a situational factor. To me, this begs the question; How could the situational factors of one’s culture and society outweigh the individual need to ‘drive upward’? My Anthropology professor speaks about the San people in his book, (The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters In The Modern World, Wade Davis) and how their culture has always revolved around gift giving instead of trade. Being from Canada, I find it difficult to even imagine living in a completely non-competitive society, without social comparison, but based on my understanding the San people have situational factors that are polar opposites to those that I know and experience.
‘alicewang0108‘ posted this in her response: ‘Albert Einstein once said:“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” I would like to change it into: “Not everything that counts can be compared, and not everything that can be compared counts.”’(https://mschandorf.ca/2018/09/30/you-are-on-the-right-track-reading-response-for-the-psychology-of-competition/). I find this to be a very interesting way to think about social comparison and it’s relation to competitiveness. This made me ask myself; can we fully acknowledge the factors influencing our social comparison? The primitive drive to enhance our individual lives can be broken down by looking at every situational and individual factor at play, but I don’t think that can encompass certain subconscious feelings surrounding social comparison. The simple life a Lion leads could be broken down into the factors of survival, but if the entire pride will eat anyways, why the need to eat first? I could answer that question, but one could continuously question the response with another ‘why?’. This leads me to feel as though the backbone of our relationship with competition is simply our primal nature.
Social comparison is inherently present in the society we live in. I think it is an extremely interesting vehicle in which to study competition. Competitiveness brings up a plethora of questions and social comparison provides answers to a lot of them, whilst also posing more questions. I look forward to the continued discourse on the subject, and the new perspectives brought up on this forum.