Competition and Cooperation: Challenging the beauty and the beast paradigm
Competition and cooperation have been conceptualized by social interdependence theory (Johnson & Johnson, 1989), which functions as the theoretical framework in many contexts (e.g., cooperative learning in education). Most studies show that positive interdependence in cooperative structures leads to more positive outcomes in terms of group productivity and interpersonal relationships. As a result, the focus has been on the structure of cooperation and competition has been viewed as an unproductive condition and a counterpart to cooperative structures. Some scholars (Baumgarten, 1988; Kohn, 1986) even argued that competition should be banned out of our workplaces and schools as it can only lead to destructive outcomes. Lately, studies (Fülöp, 2008; Sheridan, & Williams, 2006) have challenged this dichotomous view of competition and cooperation and suggested that both concepts need to be seen as continuums. Stanne, Johnson, and Johnson (1999) found that appropriately structured competition can lead to equally or more favorable outcomes than cooperative settings in motor task execution. Other researchers (Fülöp, 2009; Tjosvold, Johnson, & Johnson, 2003, 2006) have since examined the nature of constructive competition and its applicability in different contexts. This study examines the concept of constructive competition by exploring and structuring the most recent literature from educational and athletic contexts. The dimensions of constructive competition found in various studies will be explained and compared. The implications for educational and athletic contexts will be highlighted and future research directions will be discussed.