Ranks and rivals: a theory of competition.


Social comparison theories typically imply a comparable degree of competition between commensurate rivals who are competing on a mutually important dimension. However, the present analysis reveals that the degree of competition between such rivals depends on their proximity to a meaningful standard. Studies 1 to 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 to 6 then generalize these findings, showing that the degree of competition also increases 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 and 8 further examine the psychological processes underlying this phenomenon and reveal that proximity to a standard exerts a direct impact on the basic unidirectional drive upward, beyond the established effects of commensurability and dimension relevance.

4 Figures and Tables

Showing 1-10 of 46 references

Social comparison theory: An attributional approach Social comparison process: Theoretical and empirical perspectives

  • G R Goethals, J Darley
  • 1977
Highly Influential
11 Excerpts

Reversals of preference in allocation decisions: Judging an alternative versus choosing among alternatives

  • M H Bazerman, G F Loewenstein, S B White
  • 1992
Highly Influential
5 Excerpts

Profit versus disadvantageous inequality: The impact of self-categorization

  • S M Garcia, A Tor, M H Bazerman, D T Miller
  • 2005

E-research: Ethics, security, design, and control in psychological research on the Internet

  • B A Nosek, M R Banaji, A G Greenwald
  • 2002

A selective history of classic and neosocial comparison theory Handbook of social comparison: Theory and research

  • J Suls, L Wheeler
  • 2000
3 Excerpts
Showing 1-10 of 18 extracted citations