Recent Experiments in Psychology

By Leland W. Crafts; Theodore C. Schneirla et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
COOPERATION AND COMPETITION

INTRODUCTION

The aim of the present chapter is to consider the question whether cooperative or competitive situations are more effective as motives to work and effort on the part of human beings. A cooperative situation may be defined as one which stimulates an individual to strive with the other members of his group for a goal object which is to be shared equally among all of them. On the other hand, a competitive situation is one which stimulates the individual to strive against other individuals in his group for a goal object of which he hopes to be the sole, or a principal, possessor. Many situations which stimulate an individual to work cooperatively with others involve competition between his own group and some other similar organization. But in group competition the rewards of success accrue to the group as a whole. It is only in a competitive situation as we have defined it that a single individual strives to surpass other individuals in the acquisition of material goods, or of personal prestige and distinction.

At present the two principal sources of information relevant to this question of cooperation versus competition are the results of psychological experiments and the data obtained from anthropological studies of various human cultures.1 Accordingly, this chapter will comprise a review of a psychological experiment in which the effectiveness of these two kinds of motive is compared, and brief descriptions of the cultures of two primitive tribes which differ markedly with respect to the relative importance of cooperative and competitive behavior in the life of their people.

____________________
1
By "culture" is meant the social heritage of a people; that is, its language, customs, ideas, and values, its material goods and technical processes, and its social and economic organization.

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