The Motivation behind Red and Blue Exercise(competition)

“empresas concorrentes”的图片搜索结果


In this Roberta Wiig Berg article called COMPETITION AND COOPERATION: THE WISDOM TO KNOW WHEN, there is a detailed introduction about red and blue exercise and also analysis of different factors influencing the results, aiming to use this exercise as a starting point to reflect that the principle it presents is applicable in business. But, the author pays much attention to the relationships between different choices and results, which makes me wonder what kind of motivation led them to participants made such a decision? Where is the distrust from? Where is the motivation of competition from?

In the competition in Red and Blue Exercise, much obvious contradiction emerging is that even though many participants are acquainted with the prisoner’s dilemma they still tend to choose blue or they make a decision which is opposed to the result of the previous agreement. I think this is a sense of self-protection. In the exercise, which is similar to the sum game, the best way for participants to avoid having to end up with a negative number, is to choose blue. The defensive response prevents them bing disadvantage them. In real life, competition is often characterized by uncertainty and risk. Uncertainty about the outcome of the competition, or the opponent, or the environment, and the risk of damage to reputation or material loss caused by the result of the competition. It tends to cause unease about competition, which puts people on the defensive.

On the other hand, in this competition, when one group of people saw that another group had a lot of points, they would always choose blue so that neither group would get the score. Why, at this point, their goal is not to pursue a high score, but to stop others from a high score. About this question, alicewang0108’s about human nature is evil or good is interesting. In addition, I also found that this may be due to human envy. Envy and competition seem to be inextricably linked. Envy does not arise from random or blind comparisons but always exists in certain social comparisons. The comparison here is a form of competition that we often talk about. KY’s creators have summed it up. Envy generally requires four conditions: the other side is similar to us, events and self-correlation is high, subjective sense of injustice, and in the imagination of their own high control of the matter. People like to compare themselves with people like them, which is mentioned in the previous The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective; competition is often their own participation in activities, it has always been closely linked with the participants themselves; then, in fact, there is no absolute fair competition and when we realize that the unfairness we feel is not supported by competition rules, it exacerbates envy. So, more precisely, it doesn’t explain exactly at red and blue exercise, but it does apply to many competitive situations in life. From this perspective, as one of the competitive motivation, envy and competition in an interactive outcome. The unbalanced conclusion from the comparison that comparison, is carried out with envy will increase the competition consciousness of the competition, and then increase the competition consciousness of the competitors again and again, so repeatedly.

And I don’t think the author has a convincing explanation for business, in real life. In an extreme but understandable example, the psychological motivations behind a 1 million business and a 90-minute quiz are quite different. When betting on bigger profits, many people(especially large objects such as companies) do not take the stand of “reducing each other’s scores,” especially when they are already running hard, and their motivation is always their own profit but not the better part of others than themselves. As a result, relatively mature decisions are often made – corporation, and collaboration in business is often accompanied by competition. (it is not ruled out that a small number of companies will take the extreme approach, but usually ending with double-lose.) During the 2009 economic crisis, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicated that China and the United States needed to work together amid the world economy’s most challenging economic and financial pressures in years. Help shape a strong global strategy to contain the crisis and lay the foundation for economic recovery. In my opinion, the author’s neglect of the motivation of the participants in the red and blue exercise game will lead to a discrepancy between the results of the analysis and the real-life situation, and will further weaken the author’s persuasiveness about the connection between the game and business competition. Because he ignores the fact that many people do seek cooperation in the zero-sum game. Therefore, red and blue exercise as a template for the analysis of competition, should be further improved.



Image Sources:

Roberta Wiig Berg: Competition and Cooperation: The Wisdom to Know When

Stephen M. Garcia, Avishalom Tor, and Tyrone M. Schiff: The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective

alicewang: The Invisible Hand—-Reading Response for “Competition and Cooperation: The Wisdom to Know When” (

Timothy Geithne: The views were drawn from his speech delivered at Peking University, China, on June 1, 2019.


  1. Thank you for linking to my essay and opinion! (ps: you forget to make a link) I like your analysis on mature decision, but how would you define “mature”? How to get “mature”? Does it mean that human beings are naturally “naive”?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m soooooo sorry about that!! I forgot!! XD!!!! I put your link on it now! This “mature decision” is like a low-risk decision when the background is a business or a larger object(country or interest group). From what I’ve seen and heard, companies tend to adopt corporate partnerships or mergers in some high-risk situations(especially in Economic Crisis in 2009), which is mature compared to “reducing others’ scores” in red and blue exercise. The point I want to make is that the author wants to connect the exercise and the business, but the difference between the two scenarios is particularly obvious, so the analogy is inappropriate. Thank you for replying me! 😀


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