Competition is, in general, a contest or rivalry between two or more
entities, organisms, animals , individuals, economic groups or social
groups, etc., for territory, a niche, for scarce resources, goods, for
mates, for prestige, recognition, for awards, for group or social
status, or for leadership and profit. It arises whenever at least
two parties strive for a goal which cannot be shared, where one's gain
is the other's loss (a zero-sum game).
Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which co-exist
in the same environment. For example, animals compete over water
supplies, food, mates, and other biological resources. Humans usually
compete for food and mates, though when these needs are met deep
rivalries often arise over the pursuit of wealth, power, prestige, and
Competition is often considered to be the opposite of cooperation,
however in the real world, mixtures of cooperation and competition are
the norm. Optimal strategies to achieve goals are studied in the
branch of mathematics known as game theory.
Competition is also a major tenet of market economies and business. It
is often associated with business competition as most companies are in
competition with at least one other firm over the same group of
customers. Also competition inside a company is usually stimulated
with the larger purpose of meeting and reaching higher quality of
services or improved products that the company may produce or develop.
Biology and ecology
Economics and business
Consumer competitions - games of luck or skill
13.3 Mahatma Gandhi
14 See also
Competition can have both beneficial and detrimental effects. Many
evolutionary biologists view inter-species and intra-species
competition as the driving force of adaptation, and ultimately of
evolution. However, some biologists disagree, citing competition as a
driving force only on a small scale, and citing the larger scale
drivers of evolution to be abiotic factors (termed 'Room to Roam').
Richard Dawkins prefers to think of evolution in terms of competition
between single genes, which have the welfare of the organism 'in mind'
only insofar as that welfare furthers their own selfish drives for
replication (termed the 'selfish gene').
Some social Darwinists claim that competition also serves as a
mechanism for determining the best-suited group; politically,
economically and ecologically. Positively, competition may serve as a
form of recreation or a challenge provided that it is non-hostile. On
the negative side, competition can cause injury and loss to the
organisms involved, and drain valuable resources and energy. In the
human species competition can be expensive on many levels, not only in
lives lost to war, physical injuries, and damaged psychological well
beings, but also in the health effects from everyday civilian life
caused by work stress, long work hours, abusive working relationships,
and poor working conditions, that detract from the enjoyment of life,
even as such competition results in financial gain for the owners.
Biology and ecology
Competition within, between, and among species is one of the most
important forces in biology, especially in the field of ecology.
Competition between members of a species ("intraspecific") for
resources such as food, water, territory, and sunlight may result in
an increase in the frequency of a variant of the species best suited
for survival and reproduction until its fixation within a population.
However, competition among resources also has a strong tendency for
diversification between members of the same species, resulting in
coexistence of competitive and non-competitive strategies or cycles
between low and high competitiveness. Third parties within a species
often favour highly competitive strategies leading to species
extinction when environmental conditions are harsh (evolutionary
Competition is also present between species ("interspecific"). When
resources are limited, several species may depend on these resources.
Thus, each of the species competes with the others to gain access to
the resources. As a result, species less suited to compete for the
resources may die out unless they adapt by character dislocation, for
instance. According to evolutionary theory, this competition within
and between species for resources plays a significant role in natural
selection. At shorter time scales, competition is also one of the most
important factors controlling diversity in ecological communities, but
at larger scales expansion and contraction of ecological space is a
much more larger factor than competition. This is illustrated by
living plant communities where asymmetric competition and competitive
dominance frequently occur. Multiple examples of symmetric and
asymmetric competition also exist for animals.
Game theory is "the study of mathematical models of conflict and
cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers." Game
theory is mainly used in economics, political science, and psychology,
as well as logic, computer science, biology and poker. Originally,
it mainly addressed zero-sum games, in which one person's gains result
in losses for the other participants.
Game theory is a major method used in mathematical economics and
business for modeling competing behaviors of interacting agents.
Applications include a wide array of economic phenomena and
approaches, such as auctions, bargaining, mergers & acquisitions
pricing, fair division, duopolies, oligopolies, social network
formation, agent-based computational economics, general
equilibrium, mechanism design, and voting systems; and across
such broad areas as experimental economics, behavioral
economics, information economics, industrial organization,
and political economy.
This research usually focuses on particular sets of strategies known
as "solution concepts" or "equilibria". A common assumption is that
players act rationally. In non-cooperative games, the most famous of
these is the Nash equilibrium. A set of strategies is a Nash
equilibrium if each represents a best response to the other
strategies. If all the players are playing the strategies in a Nash
equilibrium, they have no unilateral incentive to deviate, since their
strategy is the best they can do given what others are doing.
Economics and business
Merriam-Webster defines competition in business as "the effort of two
or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third
party by offering the most favorable terms". It was described by
Adam Smith in The
Wealth of Nations and later economists as allocating
productive resources to their most highly valued uses and encouraging
efficiency. Later microeconomic theory distinguished between
perfect competition and imperfect competition, concluding that no
system of resource allocation is more efficient than perfect
competition. Competition, according to the theory, causes commercial
firms to develop new products, services and technologies, which would
give consumers greater selection and better products. The greater
selection typically causes lower prices for the products, compared to
what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or
little competition (oligopoly).
However, competition may also lead to wasted (duplicated) effort and
to increased costs (and prices) in some circumstances. For example,
the intense competition for the small number of top jobs in music and
movie acting leads many aspiring musicians and actors to make
substantial investments in training which are not recouped, because
only a fraction become successful. Critics have also argued that
competition can be destabilizing, particularly competition between
certain financial institutions.
Experts have also questioned the constructiveness of competition in
profitability. It has been argued that competition-oriented objectives
are counterproductive to raising revenues and profitability because
they limit the options of strategies for firms as well as their
ability to offer innovative responses to changes in the market. In
addition, the strong desire to defeat rival firms with competitive
prices has the strong possibility of causing price wars.
Three levels of economic competition have been classified:
The most narrow form is direct competition (also called category
competition or brand competition), where products which perform the
same function compete against each other. For example, one brand of
pick-up trucks competes with several other brands of pick-up trucks.
Sometimes, two companies are rivals and one adds new products to their
line, which leads to the other company distributing the same new
things, and in this manner they compete.
The next form is substitute or indirect competition, where products
which are close substitutes for one another compete. For example,
butter competes with margarine, mayonnaise and other various sauces
The broadest form of competition is typically called budget
competition. Included in this category is anything on which the
consumer might want to spend their available money. For example, a
family which has $20,000 available may choose to spend it on many
different items, which can all be seen as competing with each other
for the family's expenditure. This form of competition is also
sometimes described as a competition of "share of wallet".
In addition, companies also compete for financing on the capital
markets (equity or debt) in order to generate the necessary cash for
their operations. An investor typically will consider alternative
investment opportunities given his risk profile and not only look at
companies just competing on product (direct competitors). Enlarging
the investment universe to include indirect competitors leads to a
broader peer universe of comparable, indirectly competing companies.
Competition does not necessarily have to be between companies. For
example, business writers sometimes refer to internal competition.
This is competition within companies. The idea was first introduced by
Alfred Sloan at General Motors in the 1920s. Sloan deliberately
created areas of overlap between divisions of the company so that each
division would be competing with the other divisions. For example, the
Chevrolet division would compete with the
Pontiac division for some
market segments. The competing brands by the same company allowed
parts to be designed by one division and shared by several divisions,
for example parts designed by
Chevrolet would also be used by Pontiac.
Also, in 1931, Procter & Gamble initiated a deliberate system of
internal brand-versus-brand rivalry. The company was organized around
different brands, with each brand allocated resources, including a
dedicated group of employees willing to champion the brand. Each brand
manager was given responsibility for the success or failure of the
brand, and compensated accordingly.
Finally, most businesses also encourage competition between individual
employees. An example of this is a contest between sales
representatives. The sales representative with the highest sales (or
the best improvement in sales) over a period of time would gain
benefits from the employer. This is also known as intra-brand
Shalev and Asbjornsen also found that success (i.e. the saving
resulted) of reverse auctions correlated most closely with
competition. The literature widely supported the importance of
competition as the primary driver of reverse auctions success.
Their findings appear to support that argument, as competition
correlated strongly with the reverse auction success, as well as with
the number of bidders.
It should also be noted that business and economic competition in most
countries is often limited or restricted.
Competition often is subject
to legal restrictions. For example, competition may be legally
prohibited, as in the case with a government monopoly or a
government-granted monopoly. Tariffs, subsidies or other protectionist
measures may also be instituted by government in order to prevent or
reduce competition. Depending on the respective economic policy, pure
competition is to a greater or lesser extent regulated by competition
policy and competition law. Another component of these activities is
the discovery process, with instances of higher government regulations
typically leading to less competitive businesses being launched.
See also: Race to the bottom
Competition between countries is quite subtle to detect, but is quite
evident in the world economy. Countries compete to provide the best
possible business environment for multinational corporations. Such
competition is evident by the policies undertaken by these countries
to educate the future workforce. For example, East Asian economies
such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea tend to emphasize education
by allocating a large portion of the budget to this sector, and by
implementing programmes such as gifted education.
The Department of Justice building in
Washington, D.C. is home to the
influential antitrust enforcers of U.S. competition laws
Competition law, known in the
United States as antitrust law, has
three main functions. First, it prohibits agreements aimed to restrict
free trading between business entities and their customers. For
example, a cartel of sports shops who together fix football jersey
prices higher than normal is illegal. Second, competition law can
ban the existence or abusive behaviour of a firm dominating the
market. One case in point could be a software company who through its
monopoly on computer platforms makes consumers use its media
player. Third, to preserve competitive markets, the law supervises
the mergers and acquisitions of very large corporations. Competition
authorities could for instance require that a large packaging company
give plastic bottle licenses to competitors before taking over a major
PET producer. In this case (as in all three), competition law aims
to protect the welfare of consumers by ensuring business must compete
for its share of the market economy.
In recent decades, competition law has also been sold as good medicine
to provide better public services, traditionally funded by tax payers
and administered by democratically accountable governments. Hence
competition law is closely connected with the law on deregulation of
access to markets, providing state aids and subsidies, the
privatisation of state-owned assets and the use of independent sector
regulators, such as the United Kingdom telecommunications watchdog
Ofcom. Behind the practice lies the theory, which over the last fifty
years has been dominated by neo-classical economics. Markets are seen
as the most efficient method of allocating resources, although
sometimes they fail, and regulation becomes necessary to protect the
ideal market model. Behind the theory lies the history, reaching back
further than the Roman Empire. The business practices of market
traders, guilds and governments have always been subject to scrutiny
and sometimes severe sanctions. Since the twentieth century,
competition law has become global. The two largest, most organised and
influential systems of competition regulation are United States
antitrust law and European Community competition law. The respective
national authorities, the
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the
Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the
United States and the European
Competition Directorate General (DGCOMP) have formed
international support and enforcement networks.
Competition law is
growing in importance every day, which warrants for its careful study.
Competition is also found in trade. For nations, as well as firms it
is important to understand trade dynamics in order to market their
goods and services effectively in international markets. Balance of
trade can be considered a crude, but widely used proxy for
international competitiveness across levels: country, industry or even
firm. Research data hints that exporting firms have a higher survival
rate and achieve greater employment growth compared with
Using a simple concept to measure heights that firms can climb may
help improve execution of strategies. International competitiveness
can be measured on several criteria but few are as flexible and
versatile to be applied across levels as
Competition is also found in politics. In democracies, an election is
a competition for an elected office. In other words, two or more
candidates strive and compete against one another to attain a position
of power. The winner gains the seat of the elected office for a
predefined period of time, towards the end of which another election
is usually held to determine the next holder of the office.
In addition, there is inevitable competition inside a government.
Because several offices are appointed, potential candidates compete
against the others in order to gain the particular office. Departments
may also compete for a limited amount of resources, such as for
funding. Finally, where there are party systems, elected leaders of
different parties will ultimately compete against the other parties
for laws, funding and power.
Finally, competition also exists between governments. Each country or
nationality struggles for world dominance, power, or military
strength. For example, the
United States competed against the Soviet
Union in the
Cold War for world power, and the two also struggled over
the different types of government (in these cases representative
democracy and communism). The result of this type of competition often
leads to worldwide tensions, and may sometimes erupt into warfare.
United States Olympic Committee's headquarters in Colorado
Springs, Colorado. The
Olympic Games are regarded as the international
pinnacle of sports competition.
While some sports and games (such as fishing or hiking) have been
viewed as primarily recreational, most sports are considered
competitive. The majority involve competition between two or more
persons (sometimes using horses or cars). For example, in a game of
basketball, two teams compete against one another to determine who can
score the most points. When there is no set reward for the winning
team, many players gain a sense of pride. In addition, extrinsic
rewards may also be given. Athletes, besides competing against other
humans, also compete against nature in sports such as whitewater
kayaking or mountaineering, where the goal is to reach a destination,
with only natural barriers impeding the process. A regularly scheduled
(for instance annual) competition meant to determine the "best"
competitor of that cycle is called a championship.
Baseball, a competitive sport
Competitive sports are governed by codified rules agreed upon by the
participants. Violating these rules is considered to be unfair
competition. Thus, sports provide artificial (not natural)
competition; for example, competing for control of a ball, or
defending territory on a playing field is not an innate biological
factor in humans. Athletes in sports such as gymnastics and
competitive diving compete against each other in order to come closest
to a conceptual ideal of a perfect performance, which incorporates
measurable criteria and standards which are translated into numerical
ratings and scores by appointed judges.
Sports competition is generally broken down into three categories:
individual sports, such as archery; dual sports, such as doubles
tennis, and team sports competition, such as cricket or football.
While most sports competitions are recreation, there exist several
major and minor professional sports leagues throughout the world. The
Olympic Games, held every four years, is usually regarded as the
international pinnacle of sports competition.
Competition is a major factor in education. On a global scale,
national education systems, intending to bring out the best in the
next generation, encourage competitiveness among students through
scholarships. Countries such as England and Singapore have special
education programmes which cater for specialist students, prompting
charges of academic elitism. Upon receipt of their academic results,
students tend to compare their grades to see who is better. In severe
cases, the pressure to perform in some countries is so high that it
can result in stigmatization of intellectually deficient students, or
even suicide as a consequence of failing the exams; Japan being a
prime example (see Education in Japan). This has resulted in critical
re-evaluation of examinations as a whole by educationalists[citation
needed]. Critics of competition as a motivating factor in education
systems, such as Alfie Kohn, assert that competition actually has a
net negative influence on the achievement levels of students, and that
it "turns all of us into losers" (Kohn 1986). Economist Richard Layard
has commented on the harmful effects, stating "people feel that they
are under a great deal of pressure. They feel that their main
objective in life is to do better than other people. That is certainly
what young people are being taught in school every day. And it's not a
good basis for a society."
However, other studies such as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking
show that the effect of competition on students depends on each
individual's level of agency. Students with a high level of agency
thrive on competition, are self-motivated, and are willing to risk
failure. Compared to their counterparts who are low in agency, these
students are more likely to be flexible, adaptable and creative as
Literary competitions, such as contests sponsored by literary
journals, publishing houses and theaters, have increasingly become a
means for aspiring writers to gain recognition. Awards for fiction
include those sponsored by the Missouri Review, Boston Review, Indiana
North American Review
North American Review and Southwest Review. The Albee Award,
sponsored by the Yale Drama Series, is among the most prestigious
playwriting awards.
Consumer competitions - games of luck or skill
Game of chance
In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, competitions or
lottos are the equivalent of what are commonly known as sweepstakes in
the United States. The correct technical name for Australian consumer
competitions is a trade promotion lottery or lottos.
Competition or trade promotion lottery entrants enter to win a prize
or prizes, hence many entrants are all in competition, or competing
for a limited number of prizes.
A trade promotion lottery or competition is a free entry lottery run
to promote goods or services supplied by a business. An example is
where you purchase goods or services and then given the chance to
enter into the lottery and possibly win a prize. A trade promotion
lottery can be called a lotto, competition, contest, sweepstake, or
Such competitions can be games of luck (randomly drawn) or skill
(judged on an entry question or submission), or possibly a combination
People that enjoy entering competitions are known as compers. Many
compers attend annual national conventions. In 2012 over 100 members
of the online competitions community of lottos.com.au from around
Australia met on the Gold Coast, Queensland to discuss
Competition has been studied in several fields, including psychology,
sociology and anthropology. Social psychologists, for instance, study
the nature of competition. They investigate the natural urge of
competition and its circumstances. They also study group dynamics, to
detect how competition emerges and what its effects are. Sociologists,
meanwhile, study the effects of competition on society as a whole. In
addition, anthropologists study the history and prehistory of
competition in various cultures. They also investigate how competition
manifested itself in various cultural settings in the past, and how
competition has developed over time.
Main article: Competitiveness
Many philosophers and psychologists have identified a trait in most
living organisms which can drive the particular organism to compete.
This trait, called competitiveness, is viewed as an innate biological
traitwhich coexists along with the urge for survival.
Competitiveness, or the inclination to compete, though, has become
synonymous with aggressiveness and ambition in the English language.
More advanced civilizations integrate aggressiveness and
competitiveness into their interactions, as a way to distribute
resources and adapt. Many plants compete with neighboring ones for
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould and others have argued that as one ascends
the evolutionary hierarchy, competitiveness (the survival instinct)
becomes less innate, and more a learned behavior. The
same could be said for co-operation: in humans, at least, both
co-operation and competition are considered learned behaviors[citation
needed], because the human species learns to adapt to environmental
pressures. Consequently, if survival requires competitive behaviors,
the individual will compete, and if survival requires co-operative
behaviors, the individual will co-operate. In the case of humans,
therefore, aggressiveness may be an innate characteristic, but a
person need not be competitive at the same time, for instance when
scaling a cliff. On the other hand, humans seem also to have a
nurturing instinct, to protect newborns and the weak. While that does
not necessitate co-operative behavior, it does help.
The term also applies to econometrics. Here, it is a comparative
measure of the ability and performance of a firm or sub-sector to sell
and produce/supply goods and/or services in a given market. The two
academic bodies of thought on the assessment of competitiveness are
the Structure Conduct Performance Paradigm and the more contemporary
New Empirical Industrial Organisation model. Predicting changes in the
competitiveness of business sectors is becoming an integral and
explicit step in public policymaking. Within capitalist economic
systems, the drive of enterprises is to maintain and improve their own
The tendency toward extreme, unhealthy competition has been termed
hypercompetitiveness. This concept originated in Karen Horney's
theories on neurosis; specifically, the highly aggressive personality
type which is characterized as "moving against people". In her view,
some people have a need to compete and win at all costs as a means of
maintaining their self-worth. These individuals are likely to turn any
activity into a competition, and they will feel threatened if they
find themselves losing. Researchers have found that men and women who
score high on the trait of hypercompetitiveness are more narcissistic
and less psychologically healthy than those who score low on the
trait. Hypercompetitive individuals generally believe that
"winning isn't everything; it's the only thing".
Margaret Heffernan's study, A Bigger Prize, examines the perils
and disadvantages of competition in (for example) biology, families,
sport, education, commerce and the Soviet Union.
Karl Marx insisted that "the capitalist system fosters competition and
egoism in all its members and thoroughly undermines all genuine forms
of community". It promotes a "climate of competitive egoism and
individualism", with competition for jobs and competition between
employees; Marx said competition between workers exceeds that
demonstrated by company owners. He also points out that
competition separates individuals from one another and while
concentration of workers and development of better communication
alleviate this, they are not a decision.
Sigmund Freud explained competition as a primal dilemma in which all
infants find themselves. The infant competes with other family members
for the attention and affection of the parent of the opposite sex or
the primary caregiving parent. During this time, a boy develops a deep
fear that the father (the son's prime rival) will punish him for these
feelings of desire for the mother, by castrating him. Girls develop
penis envy towards all males. The girl’s envy is rooted in the
biologic fact that, without a penis, she cannot sexually possess
mother, as the infantile id demands, resultantly, the girl redirects
her desire for sexual union upon father in competitive rivalry with
her mother. This constellation of feelings is known as Oedipus Complex
( after the Greek Mythology figure who accidentally killed his father
and married his mother). This is associated with the phallic stage of
childhood development where intense primal emotions of competitive
rivalry with (usually) the parent of the same sex are rampant and
create a crisis that must be negotiated successfully for healthy
psychological development to proceed. Unresolved Oedipus complex
competitiveness issues can lead to lifelong neuroses manifesting in
various ways related to an overdetermined relationship to competition.
Gandhi speaks of egoistic competition. For him, such qualities
glorified and/or left unbridled, can lead to violence, conflict,
discord and destructiveness. For Gandhi, competition comes from the
ego, and therefore society must be based on mutual love, cooperation
and sacrifice for the well-being of humanity. In the society
desired by Gandhi, each individual will cooperate and serve for the
welfare of others and people will share each other's joys, sorrows and
achievements as a norm of a social life. For him, in a non-violent
society, competition does not have a place and this should become
realized with more people making the personal choice to have fewer
tendencies toward egoism and selfishness.
Look up competition or competitor in Wiktionary, the free
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Competition
Conflict of interest
Ecological model of competition
Non-zero sum game
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