Fate or Fight? Exploring the Hedonic Costs of Competition

10 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2016

See all articles by Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Luxi Shen

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Shirley Zhang

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Jingqiu Chen

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)

Li Zhang

HKUST

Date Written: July 12, 2012

Abstract

As a resource-allocation method, free competition is generally considered more efficient and fairer than binding assignment, yet individuals’ hedonic experiences in these different resource-allocation conditions are largely ignored. Using a minimalistic experimental simulation procedure, we compared participants’ hedonic experiences between a free-competition condition (in which participants could equally and freely compete for the superior resource) and a binding-assignment condition (in which the superior and inferior resources were unequally and irreversibly assigned to different participants). We found that individuals in the binding-assignment condition -- even the disadvantaged ones -- were happier than those in the free-competition condition. We attributed the effect to individuals’ peace of mind, and supported the peace-of-mind notion by identifying two moderators: ease of social comparison and enjoyability of the inferior resource. In sum, this research highlighted the hedonic aspects of resource allocation methods and identified when accepting one’s fate is hedonically better than fighting for the best.

Keywords: judgement and decision making; happiness; social comparison; competition; resource allocation; resource distribution; control

Suggested Citation

Hsee, Christopher K. and Shen, Luxi and Zhang, Shirley and Chen, Jingqiu and Zhang, Li, Fate or Fight? Exploring the Hedonic Costs of Competition (July 12, 2012). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763587

Christopher K. Hsee

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Luxi Shen (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Shirley Zhang

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jingqiu Chen

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) ( email )

800 Dongchuan Rd
Minhang, Shanghai 200240
China

Li Zhang

HKUST ( email )

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