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Competition

Competition

An adaptive strategy that pits one person's interests against another's.

Psychologists have long been in disagreement as to whether competition is a learned or a genetic component of human behavior. Perhaps what first comes to mind when thinking of competition is athletics. It would be a mistake, however, not to recognize the effect competition has in the areas of academics, work, and many other areas of contemporary life. This is especially true in the United States, where individual rigor and competition appear to be nationalistic qualities Americans cherish and praise. It has often been suggested that the American capitalist-driven society thrives because of the spirited competition for a limited amount of resources available.

Psychologically speaking, competition has been seen as an inevitable consequence of the psychoanalytic view of human drives and is a natural state of being. According to Sigmund Freud , humans are born screaming for attention and full of organic drives for fulfillment in various areas. Initially, according to this view, we compete for the attention of our parentsseeking to attract it either from siblings or from the other parent. Thereafter, we are at the mercy of a battle between our base impulses for self-fulfillment and social and cultural mores which prohibit pure indulgence.

Current work in anthropology has suggested, however, that this view of the role of competition in human behavior may be incorrect. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), one of the great philosophers of the seventeenth century, is perhaps best remembered for his characterization of the "natural world," that is, the world before the imposition of the will of humanity, as being "nasty, brutish, and short." This image of the pre-rational world is still widely held, reinforced by Charles Darwin 's seminal work, The Origin of Species, which established the doctrine of natural selection. This doctrine, which posits that those species best able to adapt to and master the natural environment in which they live will survive, has suggested to many that the struggle for survival is an inherent human trait which determines a person's success. Darwin's theory has even been summarized as "survival of the fittest"a phrase Darwin himself never usedfurther highlighting competition's role in success. As it has often been pointed out, however, there is nothing in the concept of natural selection that suggests that competition is the most successful strategy for "survival of the fittest." Darwin asserted in The Origin of Species that the struggles he was describing should be viewed as metaphors and could easily include dependence and cooperation.

Many studies have been conducted to test the importance placed on competition as opposed to other values, such as cooperationby various cultures, and generally conclude that Americans uniquely praise competition as natural, inevitable, and desirable. In 1937, the world-renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead published Cooperation and Competition among Primitive Peoples, based on her studies of several societies that did not prize competition, and, in fact, seemed at times to place a negative value on it. One such society was the Zuni Indians of Arizona, and they, Mead found, valued cooperation far more than competition. For example, the Zuni held a ritual

footrace that anyone could participate in, the winner of which was never publicly acknowledged and, in fact, if one person made a habit of winning the race, that person was prevented from participating in the future. After studying dozens of such cultures, Mead's final conclusion was that competitiveness is a culturally created aspect of human behavior, and that its prevalence in a particular society is relative to how that society values it.

Further Reading

Boyd, David. "Strategic Behaviour in Contests: Evidence from the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games." Applied Economics (November 1995): 1037.

Clifford, Nancy. "How Competitive Are You?" Teen Magazine (September 1995): 56.

Epstein, Joseph. Ambition: The Secret Passion. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980.

Freud, Anna. The Writings of Anna Freud. Vol. 6, Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Development. International Universities Press, 1965.

Kohn, Alfie. No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

Mithers, Carol. "The Need to Compete: Why Competition Is Good for You." Ladies Home Journal (February 1995):136.

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competition

competition Interaction between individuals of the same species (intraspecific competition), or between different species (interspecific competition) at the same trophic level, in which the growth and survival of one or all species or individuals is affected adversely. The competitive mechanism may be direct (active), as when one organism releases a chemical substance that inhibits another, or indirect, as when a common resource is scarce. Competition leads either to the replacement of one species by another that has a competitive advantage, or to the modification of the interacting species by selective adaptation (whereby competition is minimized by small behavioural differences, e.g. in feeding patterns). Competition thus favours the separation of closely related or otherwise similar species. Separation may be achieved spatially, temporally, or ecologically (i.e. by adaptations in behaviour, morphology, etc.). The tendency of species to separate in this way is known as the competitive-exclusion principle.

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"competition." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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competition

competition The interaction between individuals of the same species (intraspecific competition), or between different species (interspecific competition) at the same trophic level, in which the growth and survival of one or all species or individuals is affected adversely. The competitive mechanism may be direct (active), as in allelopathy and mutual inhibition, or indirect, when a common resource is scarce. Competition leads either to the replacement of one species by another that has a competitive advantage, or to the modification of the interacting species by selective adaptation (whereby competition is minimized by small behavioural differences, e.g. in feeding patterns). Competition thus favours the separation of closely related or otherwise similar species. Separation may be achieved spatially, temporally, or ecologically (i.e. by adaptations in behaviour, morphology, etc.). The tendency of species to separate in this way is known as the competitive exclusion or Gause principle.

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"competition." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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competition (in biology)

competition, in biology, relationship between members of the same or different species in which individuals are adversely affected by those having the same living requirements, such as food or space. Intraspecific competition, i.e., competition among members of the same species, is illustrated by some species of birds and mammals, the males of which set up territories from which all other males of the same species are excluded. In interspecific competition members of different species compete for the same ecologically limiting factors, such as a food source. Not all relationships among organisms are competitive; for example, the commensal relationship between members of different species is noncompetitive (see commensalism).

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competition

com·pe·ti·tion / ˌkämpəˈtishən/ • n. the activity or condition of competing. ∎  an event or contest in which people compete: a beauty competition. ∎  the action of participating in such an event or contest: in the heat of competition. ∎  [in sing.] the person or people with whom one is competing, esp. in a commercial or sporting arena; the opposition: I walked around to check out the competition. ∎  Ecol. interaction between organisms, populations, or species, in which birth, growth and death depend on gaining a share of a limited environmental resource.

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"competition." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"competition." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/competition