How Competition Can Become Instinct

Based on results from the Red-Blue experiment of Berg claims that we are instinctively competitive when it comes to decision making. Molina et. al. argue, using different cultural examples, that we are always, instinctively, both cooperative and competitive. The Red-Blue experiment offers more insight into the process of enculturation in the business community than it does about generalized competitive human instinct. When we consider the process of enculturation, any dissonance between the results of Molina et al and Berg can be resolved.  

Enculturation can affect a person’s instinct within a given context that does not necessarily reflect a cultural norm. Enculturation, is the process of assimilation into a culture, by internalizing culturally acceptable values and acting according to culturally acceptable practices. I would argue that business school and the business community make up a subculture that operates according to its own values and practices. Therefore, the values within this subculture may not reflect a broader cultural norm. This is important because, like @katechecknita4023, I thought that the evidence Berg provided to support her argument was weak. One of the reasons I thought so, was the lack of detail used to describe the demographic participating in the Red-Blue experiment. Based on some hints she gives us, and the context/purpose of her paper I believe the participants in her experiments were mostly members of business culture, students or executives. Therefore, I believe her claim that we are instinctually competitive when it comes to decision making, does not necessarily reflect a broad cultural norm, rather it reflects the values of business culture.

If Berg’s argument were more nuanced and less generalized, then Molina et. al’s argument would not appear as a counter argument. Because, Berg is arguing that cooperation and competition are necessary in business, and Molina argue that cooperation and competition are both parts of human instinct, the results of the Red-Blue experiment reveal interesting insight into the process of enculturation into the business world. Berg’s findings that competition is overly present in decision making paired with Molinas argument that we are both instinctively cooperative and competitive suggests that during the enculturation process into business culture, competition is overemphasized. Based on my personal experience this is easy to see. University business classes are highly competitive. They are usually graded on a curve and when professors talk about their careers they often glorify their success when it comes at the expense of their competitors. Therefore the Red-Blue experiment reveals more about the values of business culture then it does about human nature. Based on this tentative conclusion I would like to see more research into the way that enculturation effects human instinct.


  1. Hi @montylussow,
    I was intriges by your response to the Berg paper. After last class’s discussion, I see how such insight may be acquired, noticing how cooperation and competition may both be applicable. It was a fair point to mention that the sample for the experiment were people in the business community may not represent an entire population (being the population in a region), but the sample does tell us how those in the business community respond to an opportunity to be competitive. Do you think that the competitive subculture of the business community is a driving factor in why it may repel individuals who are less competitive? I look forward to hearing your response.


  2. Hi @adamlittle5856,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree that her experiment does provide valuable insight into the process of decision making by members of the business community.
    To answer your question; yes, I think that generally people avoid things they don’t enjoy. So, It would not surprise me if the competitive nature of business repelled people who are not competitive. As we saw in the group presentation last Thursday, women tend to be less competitive with other people, and therefore are less likely to engage in competition within business. I would guess that this also extends to women simply not entering into business because they know it is cometitive, and they are less competitive with other people.
    I hope that answered your question!


  3. Hi montylussow,
    Thanks for the great review! I really like the idea to use enculturation to explain how competition perpetuated in business background. Berg didn’t restrict her findings to business field makes arguments appears not concrete. But to some degree, I think that since capitalism is rooted in our society, the pattern we found in business is highly possible permeated into others as well. Maybe Berg tried to say that this pattern can be applied to daily life but more evidence needs to be presented for sure.


  4. Hi @chuxuanz ,
    Thanks for the comment! I totally agree with you that at least in western cultures competition is seen everywhere in daily life(not just within the business community). When I talk about enculturation being the source of competitive instincts, I mean that perhaps our competitive instincts our not biologically innate. In this brief review of Bergs my intention is merely to question the ways that subcultures shape our instincts. I would like to see cross cultural studies and comparisons that examine the role that enculturation plays on the development of instincts.


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