Primal Instinct: It may have its roots in that most basic human drive: survival. If you didn’t win against that saber-toothed tiger or neighboring tribe, you really lost. The saber-toothed tiger may be extinct, but those feelings haven’t gone away.
It Feels So Good
Your desire to win could be related to a chemical in your brain called dopamine, which is linked to pleasure. Besting your buddy on the golf course not only gives you bragging rights, but it also triggers a good feeling in the reward area of your brain. And a study of male mice showed that their testosterone levels got progressively higher each time they won, which made them more likely to win future fights.
We Learn From It
Besides pleasant feelings, winning also gives you good info for the next round. And on the other side of the table, your competitor’s failures spark not only those reward signals in your brain but learning signals as well.
Our democracy thrives on competition. The more hotly contested an election, the more interested and involved we are. But the outcome of a tight race puts a lot more people on the losing side.
The Great Debate
The debate is a part of life. Some researchers say we go back and forth with one another to learn and make better decisions. But one school of thought says we don’t do it to get smarter or end up with a perfect solution. We argue to bring people to our way of thinking: We argue to win.
Some Crave Competition
You know the type. “Well, he’s really competitive,” or “Wow, she’s out to win.” Many people who seem especially competitive are driven by that primal need to win, but there could be other reasons behind it. They might see it as a chance to get better at something by comparing themselves to others, or they might think the competition will make them work harder and, in turn, bring out their best.
Competitive Gender Gap
In general, studies show that women don’t like competition as much as men. It’s not that women are afraid of losing — the theory is that men are a bit overconfident. That difference may be a good thing, though. A study of 42 countries found that societies are less happy when both genders are highly competitive.
Winning Through Others: There’s a term for getting behind a winning team: “basking in reflected glory.” It means you get to enjoy a victory even though you may not have done anything but cheer: “We won, we won!” On the flip side, if your team doesn’t win, you don’t want any part of it: “Those bums lost again!” 🙂 🙂