The Psychology of Competition: Individual vs. Situational Factors

Garcia argues that “social comparison” is an important source of competitive behavior. She explores and presents many different modes of comparisons but her ideas can be summed into two major categories: individual and situational. Individual comparison varies based on what each individual values and their perception of their rivals. The idea of similarity being a cornerstone of individual comparison is very interesting as Garcia argues people feel threatened by people they feel are a close match with them. Ultimately Garcia is presenting a framework/formula that determines what type of comparison is being made and why motivations they have.

Both Garcia and Molina have similar structure to their papers but their content and writing differ greatly. Garcia for one goes in-depth with examples and presents a wide range of examples and is very detailed. Molina’s content is more digestible but is less detailed and does not give a wide array of examples. A lot of difference could also be contributed to the length of the paper as Garcia’s is significantly longer. I would argue that Garcia paper presents the idea like a scientific experiment. It starts with a hypothesis, explains how it is formed and supports those claims with a bunch of evidence. Molina does support her arguments as well but her evidence seem less concrete and less factual purely based on how the information is presented.

In my opinion the idea of competition is similar in these papers but the context they are used in is different. The psychology paper seems to take a lot of the person thought and intention into account. In Garcia’s is very focused on the intention and what the thoughts that drive an individual to be competitive. On the other hand Molina’s paper focuses on the action is self. Her premise is based on the idea that people cooperate to survive. In summary I believe Garcia focuses on the micro aspect of competition while Molina takes more of a macro approach. Also the time setting is also different as Garcia take a more modern perspective while Molina examines cooperation in history.

My thoughts
It seems that cooperation and competition interconnected. Cooperation leads to competition and competition seems to lead back to cooperation. If I build on the academia example in The cutthroat nature of academia leads to competition among individuals. If we take it a step further, this high level of competition promotes cooperation as people form groups and work together to stay competitive. But if I go by the definition of competitive as found in the dictionary, it says its the ‘act of competing’. Then we look at the definition of compete

‘”to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective (such as position, profit, or a prize) be in a state of rivalry”

This definition can pretty much be applied to any situation. If I am cooperating in a group to stay competitive I am still striving for an objective which by definition means I am competing. On the other hand if we look at the definition of cooperation

” the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for common effort “

This more specific in definition but regardless can be applied to the same situation. So by definition these actions can coexist and is purely determined by perspective.


  1. I personally believe Molina gave sufficient examples and evidence to explicitly convey his argument to the audience by introducing primary mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation from anthropologist’s perspective. However, I agree with you that Garcia, indeed goes further in-depth with more detailed examples to clarify his hypothesis. I also felt that Garcia mainly focuses on the micro level (individual) of competition while Molina focuses on the macro level (group) of competition.

    Thank you for posting a great response! 🙂


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