What is it about?

This study explores whether the behaviors individuals engage in during a competition depend on their personality, i.e., certain narcissistic tendencies they may have, such as feeling easily threatened by other competitors or liking to promote their successes. We are also looking at whether the context of the competition, such as how much they have been losing, influences individuals' behaviors. We expect to see that individuals with different personality profiles will react to losing or winning differently. We study the behaviors of 434 undergraduate students during a rigged video game tournament where they have the choice to engage in two competitive behaviors: stealing points from their opponents and paying virtual money to increase their rank in the tournament's league table. We find that there is a direct link between personality and these competitive behaviors, such that individuals who reported to feel more easily threatened by other competitors would steal more points from their opponents, and individuals who reported to have the tendency to promote their successes would pay more virtual money to increase their rank. The evidence we found about the competition's context influencing these behaviors was less solid and would need to be tested again in a larger set of participants.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

This work confirms that two personality tendencies that had been mostly measured based on individuals' reports of themselves actually translate into real-life behaviors. This confirms that the theory that describes these tendencies, namely feeling easily threatened by others (called "narcissistic rivalry") or liking to promote one's successes (called "narcissistic admiration-seeking") corresponds to how people really behave during a competition.


I enjoyed how creative this project was, as it gave us the opportunity to refine our behavioral task in order to measure the phenomena we were interested in. This was a very enriching experience and, to me, it demonstrated that it is both feasible and important to study personality tendencies from the perspective of the behaviors they translate into. This approach is necessary to refine the existing theories describing personality. I also believe that eventually it will enable us to use personality assessments to predict how individuals are going to behave in certain real-life scenarios, which could open new avenues for individualized preventive interventions promoting health and wellbeing.

Anna Szucs
National University of Singapore

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Rivalry and admiration-seeking in a social competition: From traits to behaviors through contextual cues., Personality Disorders Theory Research and Treatment, January 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/per0000610.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page