Psychology

On Being a Team Player

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Science  29 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5735, pp. 673
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5735.673a

Participating in team sports, such as baseball, can bring into play an individual's competitive tendencies (vying for a starting position) even though cooperation, as in the execution of fundamental skills such as hitting behind the runner, may be needed for success at the highest level. Historically, statistical assessment has contrasted the relative achievements of players, particularly during contract negotiations, but recent analyses have used sophisticated approaches to quantify less tangible player contributions to team success, such as moving a runner into scoring position.

Stapel and Koomen have examined the influence of personal orientation (toward cooperation or competition) on an individual's evalution of self in relation to a target. They find that a cooperative mindset yielded an enhancement of one's self-evaluation relative to a high-achieving target—referred to as assimilation—whereas the same target attributes pushed downward the self-ratings of competitive subjects. Framing the target within a cooperative or competitive context either by manipulating the scenario explicitly or by activating goals implicitly were equally effective in influencing how subjects adjusted their self-appraisals upward or downward. Finally, these positive/negative shifts also applied to comparisons in which the same pair of photographs was labeled as more or less similar depending on whether the situation was deemed to be cooperative or competitive. — GJC

J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 88, 1029 (2005).

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