Competition in Business – Programmed to Compete

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In her Research paper, Roberta Wiig Berg describes a series of identical experiments that she and her colleagues conducted around the world and analyzes the general trends in its data along with the explanations of commonly observed results in the experiments. Although the trends seen in her experiments were strong and seem to indicate something about us humans’ competitive behavior, in my opinion I felt that her concluding argument that we are born to be competitive which she made based off of her data lacks persuasiveness, because her experiment was too simple and disregarded the complexity of human minds. However, since she had many business students and executives in her research, this research might be valuable in that it might inspire further researches on this area.


Berg mainly built her argument off of her observations of the participants’ behavior in her experiments. Her arguments mainly concerned the real-life business situations, although the competition the participants experienced in her experiment was the prisoner’s dilemma type competition almost at its simplest form. As I read I could not help but question how much really did the participants’ behaviors reflected the behaviors they would take in real life in their businesses. This is a short experiment of about 60-90 minutes where grown-up participants compete for imaginary points without any mention of rewards or anything. How much would have the people been motivated to win in this game? Berg uses strong words to describe the emotional motivations behind the competitive behaviors seen in the late game rounds such as “grudge” or “desire for revenge” on page 185. However, could this not be argued to be due to the perceived worthlessness of the “scores” of the participants, and that these minor resentments from the early rounds only prevailed in the end to cause betrayals and increased competitiveness, just because to the participants, the scores had very little value and they valued revenge greater? The point is, had this been some million dollars deals would the participants still choose to retaliate and lose everything over cooperating and although less than their competitors, winning a significant sum of money?


Nevertheless, it is significant that the tendencies of the data fit the theories made by Berg. Perhaps this makes her claim somewhat more convincing. It definitely would have reinforced her argument massively had she used actual numbers to describe the frequencies of some participants’ behaviors rather than using vague descriptors like “quite often” or “most”.


To conclude, reading this paper made me question lots of things about the validity of her conclusion considering how simple this experiment is. But most likely this paper is very valuable for the academic community that Berg belongs to as it might inspire her colleagues to build on her research and contribute to expanding the knowledge in the competition in Business.

I could not make connections to other’s posts as mine was the first response to the Berg’s paper.

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