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674: Competition

In 2012, researchers published in the Psychological Bulletin took a look at prior research and new research that asked i competition had any impact on performance. Quote:

The first meta-analysis revealed that there is no noteworthy relation between competition and performance. The second meta-analysis showed, in accord with the opposing processes model, that the absence of a direct effect is the result of inconsistent mediation via achievement goals: Competition prompts performance-approach goals which, in turn, facilitate performance; and competition also prompts performance-avoidance goals which, in turn, undermine performance. These same direct and mediational findings were also observed in the 3 new empirical studies (using 3 different conceptualizations of competition and attending to numerous control variables).

To translate that to English – no matter what you individually experience, on a societal and larger scale, there’s zero relationship between competition and performance.

Which – if you accept that on face level, means that you cannot consider the impact that you believe competition has on performance. So if that factor is removed, how do you determine if it’s healthy to compete or not?

A 2012 article in the New York Times explored this, talking to several researchers. Quote:

John Tauer is a psychology professor at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn., where he studies competition and coaches the men’s basketball team. “When I hear solutions that say let’s eliminate competition,” Mr. Tauer said, “that’s not realistic.” “Not everybody gets to be a doctor,” he added, by way of example. “You don’t get away from competition unless you go to a system where everybody gets to do what they want whenever they want.”

Meanwhile, another researcher in the same article took a bit more cooperative view of competition, saying, quote:

David Johnson, a professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, who has done pioneering work on the conditions that make competition enjoyable and enhance performance, suggested one way to change the culture around winning: Have kids encourage other children. Urge [them] to recognize excellence and effort in others and to give shout-outs when [they] see them. That way, Dr. Johnson said, [they’ll] be fostering a spirit of cooperation even in the midst of competition. And when [they] lose, as [they] inevitably will, [thy] will receive encouragement in return. By taking the emphasis off winning and putting it on mastery, Dr. Johnson said, the individual and the team — classroom, country, world — will grow in the process.

But – that doesn’t mean that competition is always bad. In fact, it may be healthy — but for business. As Inc reported in 2013, quote:

After Investing $5 billion to develop a range of hybrid and electric vehicles, Nissan-Renault claimed the title of the leading manufacturer of zero-emission cars. CEO Carlos Ghosn has found that it can be lonely at the top. Speaking at the Frankfurt motor show earlier this year, Ghosn said he welcomes competition from other automakers because a bigger field would help jump-start the market. “The more companies that buy into electric cars, the better it is,” he said.