Ranks and Rivals: A Theory of Competition
Stephen M. Garcia
University of Michigan
Notre Dame Law School
Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan
Ross School of Business Paper No. 1030
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 32, pp. 970-982, 2006
Social comparison theories typically assume a comparable degree of competition between commensurate rivals on a mutually important dimension. In contrast, however, the following set of studies reveals that the degree of competition between such rivals depends on their proximity to a standard. Studies 1-3 test the prediction that individuals become more competitive and less willing to maximize profitable joint gains when they and their commensurate rivals are highly ranked (e.g., #2 vs. #3) than when they are not (e.g., #202 vs. #203). Studies 4-6 then generalize these findings, showing that the degree of competition increases not only for high ranks but also in the proximity of other meaningful standards, such as the bottom of a ranking scale or a qualitative threshold in the middle of a scale. Studies 7-8 further examine the psychological processes underlying the present findings and reveal that proximity to a meaningful standard exerts a direct impact on the "unidirectional drive upward," beyond the established effects of commensurability and dimension relevance.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: Competition, Social Comparison, Decision Making, Social Capital, Behavioral, Economics
JEL Classification: C7, C70, C71, M3, M31, M20, D70
Date posted: February 10, 2006
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