Reading Response to The Psychology of Competition

Garcia et al mentioned the social comparison theory. The social comparison theory is essentially when people are encouraged by other people’s performance and want to “minimize or prevent the discrepancy” of their own performance compared to the other person. Garica et al later provided an example with racquetball. When a racquetball player “compares” their performance to a better racquetball player, this will cause the racquetball player to want to close the gap between their skill level. This however also applies to players who are not as good as you, but if they have the potential to surpass you, this may cause someone to want to improve themselves as well to prevent them from catching up to them.

I think this is especially interesting since we as humans often learn from each other by mimicking other people’s actions. I thought about how I was often compared to my siblings and cousins my age, and how as I grew older, I started to compare myself to my other classmates causing me to be competitive. Because I wanted to impress my parents, I wanted to close the gap between my performance compared to my siblings. I was shocked to find out that a theory important as the social comparison (psychology), wasn’t as studied as much compared to “sociology, political science or business”. Especially considering how relatable it is to everyone.

Bateson discusses in her commentary that when children are first born they are the at a time where they learn a system such as when you cry, you get fed, and how she thinks that if we could teach our kids to think more systematically then for themselves, we can have a generation which will be less individualistic. I thought it was interesting that I was taught as a child to compare myself to other people – in other words, I was taught to be competitive.

The social comparison model “distinguishes the individual from situational factors of social comparison that influence competitive behavior (645)”.

When talking about relational factors, it was mentioned that “two academics who are both persons of color, from the same university, from a similar PhD vintage, and working in the same field are highly similar in terms of personal characteristics” (638 et al.)

Going back to my previous thought of how I often compared myself to cousins my age, it’s interesting when they mentioned similarity in relational factors. Considering I was the same age, race, and education as my cousins at the time, it makes sense that I often compared myself to them, as people who are similar are more “prone toward mutual social comparison (638 et al.)”.

I also agree with Fiona Huang on how they appreciated how the author took a more neutral approach when tackling competition and cooperation.


  1. I love how you relate to the fact that when you are similar to others, in this case your cousins, you tend to be competitive and compare yourself to them a lot more than you would to others. I personally relate to that too. I was wondering if, however, you feel like the comparison you make with those similar to you helps make you better off. Do you ever feel like it gives you a lot of pressure that in turn, gives you some negative energy? To what extent do you feel like the competition due to similarity in relation is positive?

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  2. I like how you gave a very relatable example from your own life. However, Garcia kind of see that closing the gap is something of competition and plus put a negative nuance in her article. Do you think if this “minimizing damage” can be consider something along the lines of improving one self to get better at what an individual is doing, instead of consider something as competition is better?


  3. Hey Melanie Chen, great post! I like how you were able to compare your personal life to the notion of “individual and relational factors”. Garcia et al describe how “mutual social comparisons” cause a higher degree of competitive behaviour, meaning that we are more likely to have a higher degree of competition amongst our friends and family members than with strangers. In essence, one could conclude that “comparison concerns” are a catalyst to competition. In your opinion and through personal experience, would the intensity of competition decrease if we stopped comparing ourselves to others? If human beings did not inherit the concept of comparison, would competition cease to exist?


  4. @blaiseappolinary8228 thank you so much for taking time to read my blog post and for your comment! That’s a very interesting point you made. Actually, in my personal experience, I think that a lot of the times I have been really pressured and receiving “negative energy” from the constant comparison. Personally, I feel like competing with anyone in general isn’t a good thing, we should be our own standards and only compete with ourselves.


  5. @ryansum9726 thank you for your comment and I hope you enjoyed my blog post. I think what Garcia is trying to say when “minimizing the gap” and how its competitive, is because the person starts wanting to improve themselves because of the tension from the potential competitors. I don’t think a master would want their apprentice to surpass them.


  6. @estu6128 thank you so much for the comment and taking the time to look over my blog post! That’s a very interesting thought and question you provided. Since you asked for my personal experience, I thought that I would bring this thought up. One of my cousins is really lazy, and his mother (my aunt) constantly complains during family gatherings about how annoyed she is at his behavior. It’s funny because I actually use other people’s behavior to justify my own laziness. If my mother would start comparing me to a very successful cousin of mine, sometimes I would redirect the spotlight to the lazier cousin of mine, and use him as an excuse to be lazy as well. So from this perspective, the comparison actually decreased competition in this specific scenario!


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