Pyrrhic victories: The need for social status drives costly competitive behavior

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Competitive behavior is commonly defined as the decision to maximize one's payoffs relative to others. We argue instead that competitive drive derives from a desire for social status. We make use of a multi-player auction task in which subjects knowingly incur financial losses for the sake of winning auctions. First, we show that overbidding is increased when the task includes members of a rival out-group, suggesting that social identity is an important mediator of competitiveness. In addition, we show that the extent that individuals are willing to incur losses is related to affective responses to social comparisons but not to monetary outcomes. Second, we show that basal levels of testosterone predict overbidding, and that this effect of testosterone is mediated by affective responses to social comparisons. Based on these findings, we argue that competitive behavior should be conceptualized in terms of social motivations as opposed to just relative monetary payoffs. © 2013 van den Bos, Golka, Effelsberg and McClure.




Van Den Bos, W., Golka, P. J. M., Effelsberg, D., & McClure, S. M. (2013). Pyrrhic victories: The need for social status drives costly competitive behavior. Frontiers in Neuroscience, (7 OCT).

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