Humans Are Driven by Relativity.

In the article by Bonte and his peers, they attempt to compare economic (standard behavioral measure) and psychological (psycho-metric scale of individual competitiveness) measures of competitiveness by performing series of experiments. As they experiment, they find that, there was a strong positive correlation between the two approaches, but what was interesting was that contrary to what they had believed, choices of competitive payments in the experiment were more strongly related to self-reported competitiveness than personal development motives. In this sense, the underlying implication here is that humans are driven by relativity

As with my last article, Berg argued that humans were “programmed” to be competitive. If we draw back from our last lecture, we can argue that if certain factors (like how scores and teams automatically indicate competition) are manipulated, we can establish a framework that can result in competition. However, it is pivotal to realize that findings from Bonte et al.’s paper and Garcia et al.’s paper suggest otherwise. According to Bonte and his peers, they suggest that competition is invoked upon the presence of others, rather than one’s desire to become better. In addition to this verdict, the “N effect” from Garcia et al. article implicated that it is the relativity of abilities that mattered in competition, rather than the act of competition itself. The fact that people’s SAT scores differed based on the size of sample population when that should not have been the case, showed that participants of the test only cared about their relative performance compared to others instead of trying to compete for the “best” marks. Expanding from this narrative, we can say that Nelson and Dawson had a point when too much competition fosters mastery goal orientation.

rz1220wsnd from our class had a brilliant example with BMW and Mercedes-Benz following up with my thesis. He explained that as Mercedes-Benz were industry leaders of the automobile business, as BMW entered the market, they had set a goal to compete like Mercedes-Benz. It was the presence of Mercedes-Benz and their relative supremacy that had led to BMW to become active competitors. 

Same could be said with Manchester United and Liverpool. When legendary Sir Alex Ferguson first set foot in Manchester United, all that mattered to him was beating Liverpool. It wasn’t about how to make Manchester United play attractive football again nor start winning games again but rather their relative performance to their rival club. Famously quoted by him, what mattered most and what his greatest challenge was “knocking Liverpool right off their perch.” 

The examples we have seen above ultimately demonstrates that humans are driven by relativity. Not only does relativity foster competition, but it also leads to mastery goal orientation. The will to have better comparative performance drives and creates competition which in turn creates advancements in variety of fields.

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  1. Hi, thanks for your response! I do agree with you that humans are driven by relativity cause that’s the case everywhere (in schools, works, even socialize with friends)! I personally think that while indeed relativity leads to competition (including unhealthier or meaningless competition), relativity could also encourage one’s desire to become better as one cannot outperform other without mastery of knowledge, techniques etc., which in turn, like you said, could create advancements in variety of fields. However, I think that relativity also sets a ceiling on potential achievement since the goal is to “beat” other competitors down. What do you think of that?


  2. Hello Paul, your response and examples are very unique which makes it very interesting to read. I certainly agree with you that humans are strongly driven by relativity when achieving the goal since the competition triggered by peers (friends, family, or etc.) have stronger influence as humans have tendency to outperform others.


  3. No, thank you for reading my response! I think, yes, to a degree relativity sets a ceiling on potential achievement since the objective becomes to outperform others. However, I also believe, it doesn’t really have to be that way. If you truly want to achieve excellence, yes, competition does lead to motivation; however, it does not lead to continuation. Personally speaking, although competition can light a fire in getting myself motivated to do something, if I really wanted to achieve a certain level of excellency in a particular subject area, I would try my best out of my own passion rather than spite or competitiveness. So I agree with your statement, but only if it means your motive lies in outperforming your competitor.


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