Is competition natural?

It seems that all the readings/articles we have read push an certain narrative about competition. In the Red – Blue experiment uses itself as evidence that people trend toward competitive behaviour. In Hutcheon’s article she seems to paint a picture about academia being an arena for intellects. In this most recent article we explore how competitiveness is measured between different focuses. All these articles seem to stress the idea that competition is built into us and is natural but is that really the case? As much as we stress the idea of individualism from a young age, I believe we equally stress the idea of cooperation. Competition is not a natural response or go to response for humans but is perceived that way because it is the most rational response in most cases. If we look at the Red – Blue experiment, people assume that the game is competitive because its that most rational response to that situation. We look at how the game is setup, two teams opposing each other, physically separated, with a individual points system. Even the score cards stress the idea of competition with the wording being “us” vs “them”. So the most rational response here is to be competitive because the setting is set up for that reason. In areas where cooperation is natural we can see that humans tend to cooperate. In history in hunter gatherer society it was necessary for humans to group up and fight for survival, in this case they cooperated as it was the best choice for their situation. In Eric’s response https://mschandorf.ca/2019/07/20/is-being-competitive-the-same-as-being-a-risk-taker/, he questions the idea of a risk taker equivalent to being competitive. The same idea is present here as he states

Are the people that were classified as competitive suddenly not competitive anymore because they took the more logical approach of at least guaranteeing some money from the experiment?

meaning context matters in every situation. So if I choose to take a risk because it was the right move in that situation make me a competitive person? Probably not. Just as a student fighting for his grade in a course that is bell-curved cannot be considered a competitive person. Our natural response is to adapt and respond in the most appropriate way. If the situation calls for competitiveness we are competitive and vice versa. Instead of deeming human behaviour as naturally competitive we should explore the reasons and the environment that causes us to act this way.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the great response! I like how you take different perspective from past papers and apply it towards each other. I too agree that our surrounding sometimes forces us to be competitive, but rather than trying to look at our surrounding we should also take consideration of clarifying the goal of competition to the people in question. After all it is impossible to control everyone’s personal environment but it is possible to give them a new perspective to take into consideration.

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  2. Thank you for the response, I definitely agree with idea that clarifying the goal of competition to the people in question is very much needed. I think a lot of the time people take the wrong perspective or misunderstand the goals which leads to unwanted behavior. While I agree its impossible to control everyone’s personal environment in environment such as schools we can alter the environment to be more conducive to the ultimate goal.

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