The Ubiquity of Competition

Over the past month, we have learned that competition is found everywhere. Whether it be in our classrooms, our football fields, or on the screen we look at in our hands at every free moment, it is inescapable.

The study of competition, as the authors – Garcia, Tor, and Schiff – described, is all encompassing, relating to many fields and disciplines. Competition does not simply have to be studied by psychologists or anthropologists, but can, and ultimately should, be studied by economists, business owners, and lawyers, to name a few examples they have given. Due to their larger scale of their intended audience, their definition of competition is much broader than those we have seen so far. Not only do they argue an improved model for understanding competition, but attempt to give lessons and recommendations to those around them.  

They define key psychological theories and definitions for the sake of cooperation between the disciplines. This brings us back to Hutcheon, who advocated for cooperation between those within the academic discourse community. These three authors are fulfilling, in their own way, her wish. 

The model has six basic components; the actor, the target, the situational factors, the individual factors, the comparison concerns, and the competitive behaviour. I find that this model can be applied to the main situation analyzed from Cooper and McGee’s ethnography – university students starting to take prescription drugs illicitly in order to achieve better marks in their courses.

The actors are the university students that are not taking the prescription drugs in university yet, and the targets are the students that are achieving more than them academically. Garcia et al defined the targets as people that are “somewhat better” (635), and in this case is it grades-wise. The situational factor is that most prominent from the categories is proximity to a standard: university is very competitive and filled with high-achievers, and these rankings, or grades, can determine a student’s ‘profit’ from life in the future. 

The individual factor that are most applicable is the dimension relevance from the personal subfactor. “Academic performance is relevant to most students” (637), and are very concerned with doing well in school. The comparison concern is their grades, and their ability to succeed in the path that they have chosen. When they see other students taking these drugs, they can feel pressured to take it as well when comparing their situation to those of the students taking them. Finally, the competitive behaviour that arises is the action of taking this performance enhancing stimulants in the hopes of achieving a better grade. 

I believe that the model they have developed is very useful in analyzing a plethora, if not the majority, of situations we find ourselves in on a daily basis. 


  1. I really like your brief explanation of the article and how you connected that to Hutcheon’s. However, what is your opinion on competition? do you think it has a balance positive and negative outcome?

    Additionally, the article goes about competition within people we have a relationship with, and how individual’s competitiveness reacts differently to this. If you and your good friend were to be rivals, do you think you would feel more competitive or not?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello,
    Thanks for your post,

    I appreciate your approach of describing the key points of the article. You mentioned that education and grades play a huge factor in this study of comparison. However there was also some implementations that personal relationships shape competition through close comparison. Personally I would argue that close friends and relationships can play a significant role in joining the game of competition. Would you think that these different factors are all interconnected? Is competition and comparison correlative in society or are their some key differences?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey,
    Thanks for the very thought provoking post, I really enjoined your link betweent the two article and applying the model that Garcia provided between individual and situational factors in regards to competition. My questions is do you think competitive behaviour is increased in a large faculty or in a small faculty? More specifically, if you become more familiar with the people in your falculty due to it’s small size, does that increase close comparison? Or is a personal relationship not required to have another person as s close comparison target?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed how you tied the Cooper’s research with Garcia. It is interesting how you point out that when students compare their situation to others that are taking it, they can feel more justified for allowing themselves to use the pharmaceutical stimulants to keep up with the rest.

    What I am curious about is, who is it that some of us see that and choose to not partake? we live and spend time in the same environments with other high achievers, yet it is not the case that everybody is using the drugs.

    I find it interesting how individuals response towards social factors is not uniform, and on an individual level, we seem to not copy each other across the board.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your interesting blog post, the conclusions you made about competition-driven drug taking to increase one’s grade was spot on. It’s clear that competition has led down a path of drug enhanced students all for better grades amongst each other, but what if this wasn’t the case.

    What if a student took the drug to actually learn more and become smarter rather than purely to increase their grades? For example, if a student took adderall to become smarter; would they think they are cheating? Would this be a result of competition still? Competition between themselves or still between their peers?

    Once again thanks for your interesting blog post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. @vinitinandwani3427 Thank you for your comment! I believe that competition has both a negative and positive outcome. I believe that context provides the pros and cons. While it can lead to growth and innovation, it can also lead to anxiety and depression. I think balance is required for it to be positive, and without that balance it will be negative!

    Also, I have definitely been ‘rivals’ with people I consider good friends. I think that due to our closeness, I was definitely more competitive, because the competition was right in my face, not an imaginary rival. Although the competition increased, my feelings of, let us say animosity or wanting to come out on top, did not increase. Because we were friends, we had this respect for each other, that even when it was a “me against you” situation, it did not result in a negative emotion.


  7. @matmot1 Hi, thank you so much for your comment!

    Is competition and comparison correlative in society or are their some key differences?

    I do believe that everything is interconnected. We grow up in many different environments (home, school, clubs, etc.), and can be influenced by any, or all, factors that are a part of those places and activities. Personally, while there are key differences, I would agree that there is a correlation between all of them.

    Why do we want to succeed in school and get good grades? When we were younger, it was to make our parents proud, now as much as that reason may have stayed, we also want to do better than our peers, and impress our friends and those we respect around us. Competition arises from comparison. If we never compared our work to other work, we would never feel that it did not meet a certain standard, which is based on rubrics that are determined by competition.

    I think comparison leads to competition, and the more you compete, the more you compare. It is almost a vicious cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. @zschaab

    I think it depends on the outcome from the faculty. For example, most of the faculties in first year are quite large, and everyone is competing to enter into their preferred major. Even though they are not close to everyone, they still understand that the competition is high due to the stakes and their desires. However, the same can be seem in the BIE program. Very small faculty, but because a certain amount of students get dropped every year, the competition is heavily felt between the students.

    I believe that a personal relationship can definitely add to the comparison and the competition, but it is not necessary for an increase in comparison and subsequent competition. I feel that that depends on the person, what they are studying, and what is at stake.


  9. @salimsalimoff7648

    Wow, this is very interesting point to make, thank you!

    I think that it is a part-biological and a part-learned. Some of us may have been born more competitive, more innately anxious of comparison and competition. Some of us many have been raised in a home or environment where winning the competition could be justified by any means, or could be so scared not to win that they deem it necessary. Although one aspect of their lives is spent around similar high achievers at school, their childhood experiences and natural factors are highly varying and different in each case.

    We tend to copy what we see to the best of our personal abilities. Our perspective will influence the manner in which we copy, if we want to copy, and if we feel we can improve on the concept of the copy before applying it to ourselves.

    I believe that in a society no one will ever agree with everything 100%, even if you tried to brainwash the population. There has to be variety, some sort of difference, for there to be growth, change, and innovation.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @charlesmb24

    Thank you for your comment!

    I think we need to go to the root of why they are taking the Adderall to begin with – the become smarter. Why would they feel the need to become smarter, why would that be beneficial to them? Better grades (I would assume in this context).

    Taking anything to enhance your performance that you know is illegal is deemed cheating by many people. In this case, it was discussed that the drugs were not taken really for the intelligence boost, but for the cognitive boost. I think that not many students understand or realize the difference between the two, and that they would still think it as cheating, because the outcome is the same.

    I believe that as much as we love to say “do not compete with others, compete with yourself and your past goals”, we inherently compare ourselves to others and their accomplishments, and it would be difficult to say and determine that there was not also a comparison and competition between themselves and their peers as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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