Reading Response to “The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective” by Stephen M. Garcia, Avishalom Tor, and Tyrone M. Schiff

Written by Adam Little

After reading “The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective” by Stephen Garcia, is is evident that a new perspective on competition can be understood, beyond the dimension of which an actor may compete for. Garcia brought new points on how competitive behaviour may be orchestrated, using the argument that various factors such as individual and situational factors may be responsible for the underlying psychological concerns revolving around comparison, which lead on to competitive behaviour. Garcia claims that different factors, such as similarity and closeness between actors, relevance between an actor and a dimension (for which involves performance, and the overarching situational factors, such as number of competitors, incentive structures, social category fault lines, and a proximity to a standard may all be responsible for the change in comparison concerns amongst individuals, which lead to a change in competitive behaviour.

Specifically looking at how such variables can be manipulated to induce a change in performance, it was interesting how such a comprehension of psychology can affect how work and performance are managed in multiple settings, such as schools and in businesses.  As @blaiseappolinary8228 mentioned, Garcia’s generated model of the exhibition of competition may result in a “new social comparison lens is also seen from across many disciplines including psychology, and beyond psychology to economics and business”. The application of the model of competition resulting from competitive concerns from the dimension of psychology will help businesses make rational business choices by studying how the competitors may make their choices. It is also interesting that such actors may exhibit cooperative or competitive behaviours depending on situational factors. For example, when the number of competitors increases, the underlying psychological concerns around comparison decrease. This can mean that if students were writing an exam in a small room, the likelihood that they receive better marks increases. However, this also means that cooperative behaviour may decrease. This can be the case in the workplace, where a certain branch may host individuals who are competitive with one another if the branch has less competing individuals who may be high in similarities with one another may not cooperate with another branch if the individuals in that branch are also similar to the individuals in the alternate branch. However, if individuals are grouped together based on similarities, separating individuals who are not similar into separate branches, whilst minimizing the number of actors in each branch, then according to Garcia, the performance in each branch may increase due to a rise in comparison concerns (controlled by a decrease in the number of competitive actors and increase in similarity between actors), whilst also increasing cooperation between branches, especially when branches rank low in similarity factors, thus improving the overall production of the business. This idea of manipulating variables to induce specific psychological concerns, which result in change in behaviour, may explain how cooperation and competition may exist in a system.

The idea of the coexistence of competition and cooperation had brought curiosity about how there are some patterns between this paper and last week’s reading on anthropology on how competition and cooperation may coexist in anthropology as a result of reciprocity where the idea of gains are determined by how the community is benefited, resulting in some competitive behaviour in accumulating resources, but ultimately using cooperation to give off resources in hopes of increasing wealth in the long run. Ideas such as these bring upon new perspectives on how competition and cooperation may not necessarily be the end-all of behaviours, but can be induced as tools to achieve objectives on the individual and systematic level.

Also, the model formulated by Garcia was well exhibited through the structure of their research paper. They had taken multiple pieces of evidence showing how if specific variables in a system are manipulated, whether they be on the individual or communal level, the psychological attitudes leading to competitive behaviour may change. Compared to other articles, like Bateson, Garcia’s goal is not necessarily to influence normative behaviour through empirical claims, but to use data to formulate a descriptive claim which can be used for further research for more empirical claims. The use of examples from different dimensions where competition is present did explain how psychological factors influence multiple other dimensions since competitive behaviour must first be established on the individual level, but was also used specifically to tie back to how the variables stated in his model are variables that should be considered when observing competition and/or cooperation in a system. This can be shown on the division of paragraphs titled based on the variables themselves, compared to the case studies examined. This is especially different than Bateson since the division of statements based on case studies was used as a means to reach a variety of audiences who specialize in multiple fields, revolving around systems. Garcia, however, mainly uses different case studies only to bring them back to the variables which are relevant to them, which are the same terms that are commonly used by psychologists. Overall, Garcia uses his model comparison concerns, which lead to competition, in order to establish new perspectives for which psychologists from different fields can use when researching further behaviour related to competitive and cooperative tendencies.

#WRDS150 #14M #psychology #Garcia

2 Comments

  1. I really like how you structured your response, in particularly how you weaved everything together so finely and made connections from one point to the next. It had a good flow and had very little disruptions and awkwardness. Your last paragraph was very explanatory about Garcia’s goals and used clear examples as well making it obvious to the reader that you had thoroughly read through the authors writings as well as Bateson’s. One thing however I would point out is that your work is quite lengthy and could be shortened and/or broken up to focus on the main points instead of details that don’t contribute as much to your piece. Overall good job though!

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  2. @lizfarlinger I highly appreciate the critique. In future posts, I will certainly be sure to decrease the amount of summarization and increase the space for points and arguments that can be supported or refuted.

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