Reading Response: The Psychology of Competition

Published in the Association for Psychological Science, Garcia et al.’s purpose is to produce a model to capture how individual and situational factors may affect competition. This purpose was intended for a certain audience, and due to the publication of this article, it can be determined that the audience would be other psychological professions and researchers under the field of psychology.

Overall, the authors were successful in their attempt in producing a model which can be used for future research on competition across academic disciplines. Specifically, Garcia et al. discuss how social comparison is a compenent of competition, and yet the two words can be used hand-in-hand when assessing competition. Throughout the journal article, the authors address and refer to existing research and experiments from other members of the psychological discipline as a means of collecting their own data and argument to further their own model. Ironically, Garcia et al. cooperated with other academics by using and referencing previous work to further their knowledge and the knowledge of the discipline as a whole.

Garcia et al. bring forwards ideas of social comparison as a form of competition in order to truly break down what makes one competitive and the factors that influence the level of social comparison they feel. For example, individual factors include incentive structures, proximity to a standard, number of competitors, social category fault lines, etc. Additionally, situational factors may include incentive structures, proximity to a standard, number of competitors, social category fault lines, and more. These ideas help the authors come to their conclusion and help produce a model which, as they illustrate, can be used through ought psychology, such as in personality psychology, organizational psychology, consumer psychology, or educational psychology. More so, the authors then apply their model to difference disciplines, such as business, law, economics, and political science in order to prove its success and application to competition in further research. In my opinion, one of their most interesting conclusions was when the authors reassessed their understanding of individual and situational factors. Initially, they discussed the two factors as if they were completely separate and distinct. However, towards their conclusion, Garcia et al. discovered “situational factors influence comparison concerns and competitiveness indirectly, via the individual factors”. This means that situational factors indirectly influence the level of competitive depending on and via the individual factors. comparison concerns

Additionally, it was very interesting to see how Garcia et al. critiqued themselves and their model in order to provide constructive criticism for themselves, whilst outlining a counterargument. Much like the work by Bateson (from our previous weekly readings), Garcia et al. identify the affect of Western individualism on the academic community and how it may bring bias towards their study. It is related to Bateson, and also similar to Werron’s and Hutcheon’s works, in that individualism is thought to be a key defining feature of Capitalist societies in the West, rather than societies or cultures built upon cooperation and collaboration. Garcia et al. thus illustrate their possible biases due to the levels of individualism in the US and other Western cultures that may influence their conclusions. They attempt at providing answers to the questions raised by this by referencing experiments about competition in China but the authors only discuss this for 2-3 sentences and much is still open to debate. Such as, in a more collective and cooperative society, one that is not under capitalism or have the ideas of individualism rooted in their culture, can this psychological model still apply? How do different cultures push for competition in today’s world? How do we push for cooperation instead? Further, is competition inherent to all humans, no matter the culture? Interesting questions that are too broad to answer in a blog comment but it’s open for discussion. Can we apply Garcia et al.’s model to all examples of competition no matter the discipline? No matter the culture?

The End

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