July 19, 2024

The psychology behind competitiveness is a fascinating subject that has been studied for many years. It is the driving force behind long-lasting competitions, from sports to business and everything in between. Competitiveness is a natural human instinct that can be both positive and negative, depending on how it is expressed. It is a complex mix of emotions, motivations, and behaviors that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including culture, upbringing, and personal experiences. In this article, we will explore the psychology behind competitiveness and how it can impact our lives, both positively and negatively.

The Basics of Competition

What is competition?

Definition of competition

Competition refers to a situation in which individuals or groups strive to achieve a common goal, often with the aim of surpassing others in terms of performance, recognition, or rewards. It can occur in various settings, including sports, business, politics, and social interactions.

Types of competition

There are several types of competition, including:

  1. Direct competition: This occurs when individuals or groups directly compete against each other to achieve a common goal. For example, athletes competing in a race or students vying for top grades.
  2. Indirect competition: This happens when individuals or groups compete indirectly for resources, recognition, or opportunities. For example, companies competing for customers or researchers competing for funding.
  3. Intra-competition: This involves individuals or groups within the same organization or team competing against each other for recognition, rewards, or promotions.
  4. Inter-competition: This refers to situations where individuals or groups from different organizations or teams compete against each other. For example, rival football clubs or political parties.
  5. Coopetition: This is a blend of cooperation and competition, where individuals or groups work together to achieve a common goal while also competing against each other in certain aspects. This can be seen in business partnerships or collaborative projects where companies compete for market share or recognition.

Why do people compete?

People engage in competitions for a variety of reasons, each stemming from a unique psychological drive. Here are some of the most common motivations behind competition:

  • Drive for achievement: This psychological drive is rooted in the desire to accomplish a specific goal or reach a desired outcome. People with a strong drive for achievement often set clear objectives and work tirelessly to reach them. They are motivated by the satisfaction that comes from achieving their goals and may be more likely to participate in competitions that align with their personal ambitions.
  • Social comparison: People are inherently social creatures, and the need to compare ourselves to others is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Social comparison can serve as a powerful motivator for competition, as individuals strive to measure themselves against their peers and prove their worth. Winning a competition can provide a sense of validation and superiority, while losing can spur improvement and growth.
  • Motivation: Competitions can also serve as a source of motivation, providing an external force that pushes individuals to excel. Whether it’s the prospect of winning a prize, gaining recognition, or simply proving oneself, competitions can be a powerful catalyst for personal growth and development. For some, the act of participating in a competition is reward enough, regardless of the outcome.

By understanding these underlying motivations, it becomes clear why people are drawn to long-lasting competitions and what drives them to continue striving for success.

Long-Lasting Competitions

Key takeaway: Long-lasting competitions are driven by psychological factors such as drive for achievement, social comparison, and motivation. Understanding these factors can help individuals and teams perform better and achieve their goals. It is important to consider the positive and negative effects of competition on behavior and to develop coping strategies and ethical considerations to manage competition effectively.

Examples of long-lasting competitions

Sports leagues are one of the most well-known examples of long-lasting competitions. These leagues, such as the National Football League (NFL) and the English Premier League (EPL), are made up of teams that compete against each other over the course of several months or even years. The teams are constantly vying for the top spot in the league, and the competition is fierce.

Another example of long-lasting competition is political elections. Political candidates engage in a fierce battle to secure the votes of the electorate. These elections can last for months or even years, and the psychological effects on the candidates and the voters can be significant.

Business rivalries are also a common example of long-lasting competition. Companies may compete for market share, customers, and brand recognition. This competition can be intense, with companies engaging in aggressive marketing campaigns and product development to gain an edge over their rivals.

In all of these examples, the competition is ongoing and can have a significant impact on the individuals and organizations involved. The psychology behind long-lasting competitions is complex and multifaceted, and understanding it can provide valuable insights into human behavior and motivation.

The psychology of long-lasting competitions

Long-lasting competitions are those that continue for an extended period, often months or even years. They are characterized by the fact that the competitors continue to strive for success even when faced with challenges and setbacks. Understanding the psychology behind these competitions can help individuals and teams to perform better and achieve their goals.

One of the key factors that influence the psychology of long-lasting competitions is perceived competition. This refers to the belief that one is in competition with others, even if there is no direct interaction or feedback. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, pressure, and self-doubt, but it can also motivate individuals to perform at their best.

Self-esteem is another important factor in the psychology of long-lasting competitions. Individuals who have high self-esteem tend to perform better in competitive situations, as they believe in their abilities and feel confident in their skills. On the other hand, those with low self-esteem may be more likely to give up or underperform, as they doubt their abilities and fear failure.

Performance is also influenced by the psychology of long-lasting competitions. The pressure to perform well can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to maintain motivation and focus over an extended period. However, individuals who are able to manage their emotions and stay focused on their goals are more likely to achieve success.

Overall, understanding the psychology behind long-lasting competitions is crucial for individuals and teams who want to perform at their best. By recognizing the factors that influence performance, such as perceived competition, self-esteem, and motivation, it is possible to develop strategies for managing these factors and achieving success.

Psychological Theories of Competition

Social identity theory

Group loyalty

  • Definition: Group loyalty refers to the emotional attachment and sense of belonging an individual has towards a particular group.
  • Impact on competition: Group loyalty can lead to increased competition between different groups, as individuals seek to defend and promote their own group’s identity and reputation.
  • Role in long-lasting competitions: Group loyalty can contribute to the persistence of long-lasting competitions, as individuals and groups continue to identify strongly with their respective groups and strive to maintain or enhance their group’s status and reputation.

Intergroup competition

  • Definition: Intergroup competition refers to the competition between different groups, as opposed to within-group competition.
  • Impact on competition: Intergroup competition can lead to heightened emotions and increased efforts to outperform other groups, as individuals seek to establish their group’s superiority and protect their group’s identity.
  • Role in long-lasting competitions: Intergroup competition can contribute to the longevity of long-lasting competitions, as individuals and groups continue to compare and compete with other groups, and the outcome of these competitions can have significant consequences for the involved groups’ status and reputation.

Self-esteem theory

Self-esteem theory posits that an individual’s self-worth is directly linked to their performance in competitive situations. This theory suggests that individuals are motivated to engage in competitions in order to maintain or enhance their self-esteem. The social comparison aspect of this theory highlights the importance of comparing oneself to others in order to gauge one’s own self-worth.

In competitive situations, individuals may experience both positive and negative outcomes. Winning a competition can lead to a boost in self-esteem, while losing can result in a decrease in self-esteem. Additionally, the way in which an individual loses a competition can also impact their self-esteem. For example, losing a competition due to a lack of effort or skill may result in a greater decrease in self-esteem compared to losing due to bad luck or uncontrollable circumstances.

Self-esteem theory also suggests that individuals may engage in self-handicapping behaviors in order to protect their self-esteem. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as deliberately underperforming in order to avoid the shame of losing, or engaging in unethical behavior in order to win at any cost.

Overall, self-esteem theory highlights the importance of competitive situations in shaping an individual’s sense of self-worth. By understanding the role that self-esteem plays in competitive situations, individuals can better understand their own motivations and behaviors, as well as those of their competitors.

Achievement motivation theory

Achievement motivation theory is a psychological framework that explains the intrinsic drive behind an individual’s pursuit of success and the satisfaction derived from accomplishing goals. This theory delves into the factors that contribute to the development of achievement motivation and how it influences the behavior of individuals engaged in long-lasting competitions.

Drive for excellence

The drive for excellence is a crucial component of achievement motivation theory. It refers to the innate desire to attain high levels of performance and to surpass one’s own previous accomplishments. This drive is fueled by an individual’s self-perception as a competent and capable person, and it is further reinforced by positive feedback and recognition from others. In the context of long-lasting competitions, the drive for excellence pushes individuals to continuously strive for improvement and to outperform their rivals.


Goal-setting is another essential aspect of achievement motivation theory. It involves the process of identifying specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound objectives that an individual aims to achieve. By setting goals, individuals can focus their efforts and direct their energy towards achieving desired outcomes. In the context of long-lasting competitions, goal-setting plays a vital role in maintaining motivation and sustaining performance over an extended period.

Additionally, the achievement motivation theory posits that individuals are more likely to persist in their efforts and maintain their performance levels when they perceive their goals as being challenging yet attainable. This concept, known as the “zone of proximal development,” suggests that setting goals that are slightly beyond an individual’s current capabilities can foster growth and enhance their overall performance.

Moreover, the theory emphasizes the importance of positive feedback and recognition in reinforcing achievement motivation. When individuals receive acknowledgment for their accomplishments and progress towards their goals, they are more likely to feel a sense of competence and satisfaction, which in turn can fuel their continued efforts and sustain their motivation in long-lasting competitions.

The Effects of Competition on Behavior

Positive effects


Competition can be a powerful motivator for individuals to perform at their best. When individuals are in a competitive environment, they are more likely to put forth their maximum effort in order to succeed. This can lead to increased levels of engagement and productivity, as individuals strive to outdo their competitors.


Competition can also be a driving force for personal and professional growth. When individuals are faced with competition, they are more likely to seek out new opportunities to improve themselves and their skills. This can lead to a greater sense of self-awareness and a desire to continuously learn and grow.


Finally, competition can foster innovation by encouraging individuals to think outside the box and come up with new and creative solutions. When individuals are in a competitive environment, they are more likely to take risks and try new approaches in order to gain an advantage over their competitors. This can lead to the development of new ideas and products that can benefit both the individual and the overall industry.

Negative effects

Competition can have several negative effects on behavior, particularly in long-lasting competitions. Some of these effects include:

  • Aggression: Competition can lead to aggressive behavior, both in terms of physical aggression and verbal aggression. This can manifest in different ways, such as getting into physical fights, shouting at opponents, or even using derogatory language.
  • Stress: Long-lasting competitions can be incredibly stressful, as the pressure to perform well and win can be overwhelming. This stress can manifest in different ways, such as anxiety, irritability, and even physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches.
  • Burnout: Over time, the constant pressure to perform and win can lead to burnout, which is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced effectiveness. Burnout can have serious consequences for athletes, including decreased performance, increased injury risk, and even early retirement.

It’s important to note that these negative effects are not inevitable, and there are ways to mitigate them. For example, coaches and trainers can work with athletes to develop coping strategies for managing stress and preventing burnout. Additionally, promoting healthy competition and fostering a positive team culture can help reduce aggression and promote more positive outcomes.

Managing Competition

Coping strategies

  • Reframing
  • Social support

Reframing is a cognitive strategy that involves changing one’s perspective on a situation in order to manage stress and anxiety. This can involve shifting focus from outcomes to the process of competition, or from a loss to a learning opportunity. By reframing, individuals can change their interpretation of a situation and reduce the negative emotions associated with competition.

Social support is another coping strategy that involves seeking help and encouragement from others. This can include talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional about one’s feelings and concerns. Social support can provide a sense of comfort and validation, and can help individuals manage the stresses of long-lasting competitions.

It is important to note that these coping strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and may not work for everyone. Additionally, it is important to seek professional help if one is struggling to manage the stresses of competition.

Ethical considerations

  • Fairness: Ensuring that all participants have equal opportunities to succeed and that the competition is conducted in a fair and unbiased manner is a key ethical consideration in managing long-lasting competitions. This includes creating clear rules and guidelines, selecting impartial judges or moderators, and avoiding any form of discrimination or favoritism.
  • Cheating: Deterring and addressing cheating is another important ethical consideration. This can include implementing strict rules against cheating, monitoring participants for any suspicious behavior, and implementing consequences for those caught cheating.
  • Collaboration: Allowing or disallowing collaboration among participants is an ethical consideration that must be carefully considered. While collaboration can enhance the quality of work and increase creativity, it can also lead to an unfair advantage for some participants. Therefore, clear guidelines and rules must be established regarding collaboration, and the consequences for violating these guidelines must be communicated clearly to all participants. Additionally, organizers must ensure that collaboration does not lead to a monopoly of resources, where some participants have more access to resources than others.

Future directions

  • Long-term effects: The impact of long-lasting competitions on individuals’ personal and professional lives, and the extent to which such effects are positive or negative.
  • Cross-cultural differences: Examining how cultural norms and values shape the way individuals perceive and participate in long-lasting competitions, and how these differences may influence the outcomes of such competitions.
  • Interdisciplinary research: Bringing together insights from various fields, such as psychology, sociology, economics, and organizational behavior, to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the psychology behind long-lasting competitions and their implications for individuals and society.


1. What is competitiveness?

Competitiveness is a psychological state in which individuals are motivated to compete against others in order to achieve their goals. It is a normal and natural part of human behavior, and can be seen in a wide range of contexts, from sports and games to business and politics.

2. What are the psychological benefits of competitiveness?

Competitiveness can have a number of psychological benefits, including increased self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of mastery over one’s environment. It can also lead to the development of important life skills, such as goal-setting, decision-making, and problem-solving.

3. What are the psychological risks of competitiveness?

Competitiveness can also have negative psychological effects, including stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also lead to aggression, bullying, and other harmful behaviors if not kept in check.

4. How does competition affect the brain?

Competition can activate the brain’s reward system, releasing chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that make us feel good. It can also increase the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can have negative effects on physical and mental health if levels become too high.

5. How can I manage my competitive feelings?

If you are feeling overly competitive, it is important to take steps to manage your emotions and behaviors. This may include setting realistic goals, focusing on personal growth rather than comparison to others, and practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can also be helpful.

The Psychology of Competitiveness – What Psychology Says About Competitiveness

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *