and Men: Social
“The chief difference between mankind and the cockroach is that the one continually bitches over his fate while the other stoically plods on, uncomplaining, with never a glance backward nor a sigh for what might have been. ”
—Jean Shepherd (1921–1999), comic writer and performer
The following creepy study is part of a research tradition that began over a century ago, when in 1898 Norman Triplett published “The Dynamogenic Factors of Pacemaking in Competition” in the then nascent American Journal of Psychology. There are two things worth remembering about Triplett. First, he loved bicycle racing. He enjoyed taking part in competitions, savored his role as spectator, and was a noted authority on the sport more generally. In fact, it was his rapt inspection of the 1897 records book of the League of American Wheelmen that led him to notice that cyclists who competed against or were paced by others performed better than those who raced against the clock alone. This, Triplett (1898) concluded, is because the “presence of another rider is a stimulus to the racer in arousing the competitive instinct… the means of releasing or freeing nervous energy for him that he cannot of himself release” (p. 516).
The second thing to remember about Triplett is that he was, evidently, a natural-born experimentalist. Venturing beyond casual observation and