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Interpersonal competitiveness--a study of simulation game participants' behaviour.

Competitive individuals are described as self-starters, go-getters and high performers. It is generally acknowledged that they achieve their goals earlier than others. They are an important component of every team, and the team is the primary vehicle to accomplish the goals of the organisation.

Literature review

Deutsch (1973) described competition as a situation that occurs when an individual's goal attainment makes it either impossible or less likely for others to reach their goals. Griffin-Pierson (1990) saw it as a social situation where one individual wins at the expense of another because his performance is superior to the latter. Wikipedia describes competition as "the act of striving against another force for the purpose of achieving dominance or attaining a reward or goal, or out of a biological imperative such as survival" ( The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2009) describes competition as a contest between rivals to secure resources that are in short supply. In essence, a competition is an interaction present in every form of human endeavour such as biochemistry, ecology, economics, business, politics, and sports, to achieve a goal that can be achieved or shared by only one or a few individuals or organisations.

According to Kohn (1986), competitiveness refers to the desire to win in interpersonal situations. Competitive individuals may be expected to strive harder, earlier or more effectively than others. The desire to participate and win in competitive sports is often attributed to individual levels of competitiveness of the participants. Sports psychologists have viewed competitiveness as a sport-specific form of achievement motivation and an adaptive characteristic of those engaged in competitive sports (Vealey, 1988; Gill, Kelley, Martin, & Caruso, 1991). Participants who have higher levels of competitiveness are therefore more eager to win in competitive situations than those who do not.

Caillois (1958, 1979) had argued that there were four broad types of games, and that only one type, agon, was distinguished by competition. Such games (including sports) are interactions between players attempting to reach or acquire a goal, which are rare and must be 'fought' for. According to Parlett (1999), formal games are systems of ends and means, with the latter part consisting of specific procedural rules to manipulate the game equipment such as pieces or tokens. A game involves some aspect of competition, and is a composite of players, goals, constraints, payoffs, consequences, rules, and artificiality (Dempsey, Haynes, Lucassen, & Casey, 2002). Avedon and Sutton-Smith (1971) linked the concepts of game and play, together. They defined play as an 'exercise of voluntary control systems', and the game as 'an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial (sic) outcome'. These elements bind together to create the competitive environment for players in the game.

Actions in games symbolically replicate ordinary human behaviour but players enact them in much shorter time than real life or for its objectives. According to Juul (2003), a game is a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable. The game player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, and feels attached to the outcome. This definition of a game implicitly accepts the role of competition as an interaction between individuals.

According to Houston, Carter and Smither (1997), 'competitiveness influences social interaction in both personal and professional life'. They also stated that 'social and personality researchers tended to view competitiveness as a relatively stable and enduring trait encompassing interpersonal activities'. They examined the relationship between sports and interpersonal competitiveness, and found that professionals scored higher than amateurs in tennis, and concluded that competitiveness was a characteristic trait of world ranked players. This suggested that players who were more competitive moved into professional circuits, while the lesser ones preferred to stay in the amateur circles. Their finding that competitiveness was relatively stable across different stages of the career indicated that competitiveness was an adaptive 'characteristic' trait, and not ability.

The mood of the competitor is a powerful driver of competitiveness. For example, the Iceberg Profile proposed by Morgan (1980) showed that competitive athletes had lower negative moods (mood states such as tension, depression, fatigue, confusion, and anger) and higher vigour scores compared to the normative psychological sample. Since then, many studies had been conducted to test the validity of the profile in competitive athletes. Fuchs and Zaichkowsky (1983) investigated the profile with respect to male and female bodybuilders, and found that it was similar to those of competitive runners, wrestlers, and oarsmen. Gat and McWhirter (1998) found that competitive and recreational cyclists exhibited mood profiles similar to Morgan's iceberg profile, but non-athletes did not. These studies confirmed that a positive mental state was a major factor in the competitiveness of individuals.

In 1992, Smither and Houston developed the Competitiveness Index (CI), an instrument that generated three stable oblique factors of emotion, argument and games (Houston, Farese, & LaDu, 1992). In 2002, Houston, McIntire, Kinnie, and Terry examined the construct of competitiveness by administering ten different measures to 140 undergraduate students. After factor analyses, they extracted two factors, Self-aggrandizement (validating one's own superiority versus others' inferiority) and Interpersonal Success (neutral view of others, with emphasis on the benefits of competitiveness).

The objectives of this study were to understand the composition of the construct of interpersonal competitiveness and to study its factors in terms of available research. The study would adopt the meaning of the construct as shaped by the CI.



Three hundred ninety one students in the first year of their 2-year post-graduate degree course in business management were participants in the study. Their three business schools were situated within a radius of 20 kilometres in National Capital Region, Delhi, India. The students were graduates in science, commerce, psychology, history, politics, English literature, business, engineering, information technology, accounting and company secretarial practice. Most students were Indians between 22 and 28 years of age.


The study used the CI developed by Smither and Houston (1992). This index is a structured personality scale for interpersonal competitiveness in everyday contexts. It has 20 items that were used in a dichotomous format (Yes/No) for responses. In this study, the CI was used in a 5-point Likert format. It has a high level of internal consistency (r = .90), and some reverse scored items. The CI was chosen for this study because it was significantly correlated to many other competitiveness measures, according to its authors.


The students played IceBreaker, a software-based management simulation game, for about eight hours. The game was an experiential learning exercise for novice students in their first week at business school. It was designed, developed, and facilitated by this author. They were teamed up in groups of 4-6 members, each. Each game session had 910 teams for 40-60 students.

Each team managed a company assigned to it for the day in two stages for a simulated period of six months. They were instructed to take decisions that would maximize their post-tax profit. Their decisions covered issues in the production, marketing and financial functions. They operated in the same market, where sales and other business performance was affected by customers' decisions to buy from one team and not others. This was a competitive environment because teams preempted and reacted to each other's resources and expected decisions. They received a variety of economic and business data, and were assigned the responsibility to discuss issues relating to the allocation of team resources for the accomplishment of its goal. The role of each participant within the team was described in detail to reduce role overlaps and ambiguity. The competitive environment in the game created the right mood for the respondents' behaviour.

At the end of the day's gaming activity, each team reviewed its performance and experience, and presented its learning, orally, with the support of written notes. This was followed by an analytical debriefing of about 30 minutes by the game facilitator. Thereafter, the CI was administered to each student participant. The response data was processed and analysed for discussions and recommendations.

Results and discussion


An examination of the sample data showed 12 records with contradictory scores. This suggested that those respondents may not have understood the items in the CI. To prevent them from corrupting the results, these records were removed from the sample data before further process.

The remaining 379 records were subjected to factor analysis under principal component analysis and varimax rotation with Kaiser normalisation, using SPSS 11.0. In the first pass, items # 2 and # 3 out of the 20 items of the scale produced negative loadings, and had to be removed from further analysis. In the next and last pass, there were no items with negative loadings.

The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy produced a value of .818 far higher than the .50 and closer to 1.0 that confirmed the utility of the factor analysis of the data. The Bartlett's test of sphericity produced a score of .000, indicating the high degree of significance of the relationships between the variables. The scale showed reliability (Cronbach a) of .77 (standardized at .79), which is satisfactory, as it is higher than the .70 recommended for such research by Nunally (1978).

Five factors, each of eigenvalue more than 1.0, were extracted after 10 iterations. They represented 55.26% of the variance. Table 1 describes the 18 items, their means, standard deviations, loadings and communalities, and the factors. The numbers preceding the items refer to the item number as assigned to them before the factor analysis. The factors have been named measured aggression, proactivity, intrinsic motivation, winning orientation, and verbal aggression. They held 15.36%, 13.16%, 12.30%, 7.36% and 7.08%, respectively, of the explained variance generated under the rotation sums of squared loadings.


According to Caprara and Pastorelli (1989), aggression was used interchangeably with aggressiveness to describe broad ideas as well as narrow, specific events. It was also used along with or in substitution of expressions such as violence, hostility, and destructiveness. They stated that the phenomenon of aggression was the result of interpersonal exchanges in a social context. They proposed that individual differences in temperament and personality such as tolerance towards violence, irritability, instigation and frustration, proneness to guilt feelings, and emotional susceptibility offered a better understanding of aggression.

Buss and Perry (1992) defined aggressiveness as a personality trait of behavioural, affective, and cognitive elements. Behaviour was represented by physical and verbal aggression; emotions were characterised by anger; and hostility was the cognitive element. Blanchard, Hebert, and Blanchard (1999) argued that aggression represented several types of evolved behaviours and behavioral patterns, some of which could be adaptive or otherwise, depending on the provocation. Blanchard and Blanchard (2005) described three generic types of aggressive behaviour in mammals: offensive, defensive and predatory aggression. They also discussed the effect of predation, core motivations, aversive emotions, and emotional arousal on aggression.

Bateman and Grant (1993) described proactivity as an individual's propensity to take action to influence his environment. A proactive person therefore tends to be entrepreneurial. Instead of being discouraged, he sees opportunities and acts in situations where others would not (Frese, Fay, & Garst, 2007). He shows initiative with his eagerness to challenge the status quo and take charge (Morrison & Phelps, 1999). Proactive persons see themselves as more independent than others (Parker, Williams, & Turner, 2006). Covey (1989) equates proactivity to conscious endeavour. Being proactive is the first of his seven habits for high personal effectiveness. He described habit as a blend of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (willingness to do). He stated that proactivity was based on principles that were central to a person's character. It helped the individual to solve problems, maximise opportunities, and to learn continuously for growth. It included responsibility, where the individual's behaviour was a function of his decisions, but not of his conditions. Peters and Waterman (1982) identified a 'bias for action' as the first of eight characteristics to explain the extraordinary success of large US firms at that time. Whether individual or group of individuals such as a firm, their proactivity as a readiness to do was a major indicator for their success.

Time is a dominant dimension of proactivity, and has forced organisations to reengineer and adapt simpler and faster processes for world-class quality (Blackburn, 1991). Speed is a competitive requirement of global business, and the endeavour of every business would be to reduce the cycle time of manufacturing and other processes (Meyer, 1993). A practical example of organisational proactivity is seen in time pacing, a regular, rhythmic and deliberate process that leads to the creation of new products and services, or the servicing of new markets according to the calendar (Eisenhardt & Brown, 1998).

Proactivity enables firms to manage through deadlines that guide their managers to align the speed and intensity of their efforts. Unproactive firms may experience project delays and avoidable costs. The constant and predictable sense of urgency within the firm drives its people to focus energy, build and sustain momentum, and manage transitions from one activity to another, quickly. Using time in one way or another, the proactive manager helps to build his competitiveness for the organisation.

Intrinsic motivation has always been visible in people who volunteered for a task in comparison to others who did not. Deci (1975) proposed that the individual's intrinsically motivated behaviour was based on his needs to feel competent and self-determined. Such behaviour is independent of reinforcements and external inducements like rewards, and is derived from basic psychological needs. Lefcourt (1982) has suggested that a person's locus of control could be a diagnostic indicator of his enthusiasm and dedication for the accomplishment of goals in his life. McAuley and Duncan (1989) pointed out that people with intrinsic motivation were prepared to suffer exhaustion, pain, and injury if only for the sheer joy and satisfaction of participating in vigorous physical activity. According to the self determination theory, an understanding of human motivation must be based on psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness, which are essential to understand the content and process of goal pursuits (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Intrinsic motivation is recognized to be the causal mechanism for spontaneous exploration and curiosity (Oudeyer & Kaplan, 2007). It is one of the three drivers for the actions of the competitive individual.

Stark, Shaw and Duffy (2007) described winning orientation as the strength of the individual's desire to win, and it was driven by his ego. Such individuals behaved, competitively, only to protect their public image and maintain favourable social comparisons, and not necessarily from an eagerness to perform well (Franken & Prpich, 1996). In contrast, the goal oriented individual was driven by his cognitive ability (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002). This orientation is better understood by Vroom's (1964) expectancy theory, where the individual is attracted by the outcomes of his efforts. This attribute of the competitive individual suggests that his passion is compulsively driven by rewards.

Presently, such behaviour may be glaringly visible in sportspersons like Tiger Woods (golf), Sachin Tendulkar (cricket), Roger Federer (tennis) and Vishwanathan Anand (chess), Lance Armstrong (cycling), and David Beckham (football).

Verbal aggressiveness is seen as a subset of hostility. It is a destructive trait where the individual's statement is intended to humiliate, insult, and embarrass others (Infante, 1987, 1995). Sometimes, such behaviour could be non-destructive and may be justified in situations such as to defend oneself and to seek compliance from or control over others. Aggressive individuals used verbal communications to exercise control over others (Anderson & Martin, 1995). Martin and Anderson (1996) showed that verbally aggressive individuals were poor in responsiveness and less sensitive to others. A fine example of contemporary verbal aggressiveness is the sledging behaviour that is characteristic of the members of the Australian cricket team when in play.

Implications and recommendations

After a review of literature covering various aspects of competitiveness, the study extracted five factors of Interpersonal Competitiveness by using a scale which correlated well with other competitiveness measures. Due to their high eigenvalues, the factors of measured aggression, proactivity, and intrinsic motivation lend strong support to the conclusion that Interpersonal Competitiveness is a blend of calculated push, early action, and the urge to act without visible gain, by the individual. The discussions showed that the construct could be extended to the behaviour of teams of individuals like organisations and firms.

The factors of winning orientation and verbal aggressiveness are supported by two and one statements, respectively, in the CI scale. Their contributions to the larger construct of Interpersonal Competitiveness are small. That this trait owner of winning orientation is selfishly focused on personal achievement as against reaching a goal may dilute the value of the construct. Further research may examine whether such direction can be better served by the goal orientation construct in the CI.

The negative connotations of verbal aggressiveness suggest that its less-than-tactful use may be harmful to its owner. While there may be urgent need to employ such behaviour, civil society may usually disapprove rudeness. Therefore, there is reason to expand this trait to include assertiveness and other forms of communications such as written and body language. New research may explore the feasibility of substituting this factor with a well-rounded communicative trait--with sufficient number of items--for a more wholesome contribution in the CI.

This study did not cover any demographic variables such as age and gender. Interpersonal Competitiveness is shaped not only by such individual differences, but also by the context and circumstances of the individual. Given that it is a multidimensional construct, there is reason to extend this study to other sample profiles such as salespersons, negotiators and entrepreneurs, where identification of competitive traits would be valuable to both respondents and their employers. The use of such indicators of competitiveness for groups of individuals, such as industrial clusters or homogeneous communities, may generate explanations about their relative progress or decline in modern civilisations.


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Dr Vinod Dumblekar


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Sukhdev Vihar

New Delhi--110025

Tel: +919818631280

Table 1: Factors of interpersonal competitiveness n=379

Measured aggression mean deviation

1. I get satisfaction from competing with others. 3.79 0.99

18. I often try to outperform others. 3.71 1.04

16. I enjoy competing against an opponent. 4.01 0.93

19. I like competition. 4.12 0.81

17. When I play a game I like to keep scores. 3.59 1.21

5. I am a competitive individual. 4.06 0.83


6. I will do almost anything to avoid an 3.60 1.02

11. I try to avoid arguments.* 3.42 1.15

9. I often remain quiet rather than risk hurting
another person.* 3.31 1.07

12. In general, I will go along with the group
rather than create conflict.* 3.31 1.13

20. I don't enjoy challenging others even when I
think they are wrong.* 4.00 1.01

Intrinsic motivation

13. I don't like competing against other people.* 4.32 0.88

10. I find competitive situations unpleasant.* 4.30 0.87

7. I try to avoid competing with others.* 4.33 0.89

15. I dread competing against other people.* 4.52 0.76

Winning orientation

4. Games with no clear cut winners are boring. 3.13 1.43

14. I don't like games that are winner-take-all.* 3.82 1.11

Verbal aggression

8. I would like to be on a debating team. 3.55 1.15

* these items were reverse scored

Cronbach alpha .77

Standardised alpha .79

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy .818

Bartlett's test of sphericity, significance .000

Measured aggression loadings alities

1. I get satisfaction from competing with others. 0.73 0.60

18. I often try to outperform others. 0.68 0.57

16. I enjoy competing against an opponent. 0.64 0.51

19. I like competition. 0.63 0.64

17. When I play a game I like to keep scores. 0.60 0.51

5. I am a competitive individual. 0.60 0.54


6. I will do almost anything to avoid an 0.79 0.64

11. I try to avoid arguments.* 0.77 0.63

9. I often remain quiet rather than risk hurting
another person.* 0.56 0.50

12. In general, I will go along with the group
rather than create conflict.* 0.54 0.38

20. I don't enjoy challenging others even when I
think they are wrong.* 0.51 0.30

Intrinsic motivation

13. I don't like competing against other people.* 0.73 0.67

10. I find competitive situations unpleasant.* 0.69 0.56

7. I try to avoid competing with others.* 0.64 0.54

15. I dread competing against other people.* 0.50 0.48

Winning orientation

4. Games with no clear cut winners are boring. 0.79 0.76

14. I don't like games that are winner-take-all.* 0.58 0.53

Verbal aggression

8. I would like to be on a debating team. 0.74 0.59

* these items were reverse scored

Cronbach alpha

Standardised alpha

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy

Bartlett's test of sphericity, significance
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Date:Jul 1, 2010
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