A prominent concept in social psychology is the social schema. A social schema is a list of expectations we have for a given social environment and general codes of conduct we adhere to. We have social schemas for most social interactions we can think of, for example, when going to a restaurant there are ways in which we know how to act and not to act and those expectations and guides to action are different from how we act and expect others to act on public transit, at funerals, weddings, bars, when interacting with professors or other students, etc… We can think of them as our default framing of situations. In light of Bergs paper and the social schema concept, I believe that Competition has been wedging its way into an increasing number of our social schemas, at least here in the west. We have to control the expectation of competition by being aware of what schemas competition is productive (or unproductive) in. Furthermore, when it is productive, we have to be sensitive to, and reflect on, our default modes of action.
Berg showed how our assumptions can influence how we act in a given situation. The example she uses to argue this is the Red-Blue game which shows how, when participants are given somewhat ambiguous instructions about the goal of the game, they assume it is a competition which leads to both teams losing. This knee-jerk reaction, if reflected on, could yield a more productive strategy, such as cooperating. Cooperating here would allow both teams to win. As @montylussow pointed out, what Berg’s paper shows is that competition is an integral part of business culture. She continues to provide the possibility that this may not reflect a broader cultural norm. I think we can substitute cultural norm here for social schema. Therefore, what Bergs paper shows, is that competition has at least become part of our business schema.
This leads me to wonder how widespread this proliferation of competition is. How many other schemas are we acquiring that lead us to expect competition and act accordingly? When our economic system is built on competition, it is bound to spread to other areas of our lives. I’m not making a normative claim here about competition in our economic system nor its place in other parts of our lives. Competition may be a sign of health in our economic system as Tepper showed with the recent burgeoning of monopolies and the lack of competition and negative impacts they bring. Furthermore, as others we read have argued, both competition and cooperation are integral to our society. There are, however, areas of our lives that competition would degrade. Therefore, we have to be careful which schemas we allow competition into. And once they are there, and I think Berg would agree, we have to be aware of our assumptions and expectations because competition, even in business, cannot always be the best course of action, even if it may be sometimes.