Runners who Kilduff surveyed reported having about three rivals on average. "I think some people may find it surprising that runners actually pick one and another out at these kind of races but my experiences speaking with them suggests they indeed do," he says. Also without prompting, these runners reported that rivalry motivated them to train and race harder and faster.
Online survey data also revealed several factors that lead to rivalry: similarity (e.g. age and gender), repeated competition, and closely-decided contests. Using these factors, Kilduff identified pairs of rivals in three years of race data matching up people who were similar, had run many races together, and who had finished with similar race times. He then looked at the subsequent three years of race data to see how the performance of these pairs changed over time.
Kilduff found that runners ran faster in the races featuring their rivals. While past research had identified similarity between competitors as a potential motivating factor, the work is novel in showing that results of past contests can make people more motivated in future ones.
"How we behave in competition situations depends on our relationship and history of interaction with our opponent," Kilduff says. "This suggests that we may be able to boost our own levels of motivation and performance by either forming rivalries or harnessing the ones we already have. It might also get us to think about whether other individuals in our lives may view us as their rivals."
Kilduff does offer some caution in approaching rivalries, noting other research that suggests that people may act more unethically or engage in more risky behaviors if it means outperforming a rival. But, he notes that rivalries may have other unexplored benefits, such as promoting greater commitment and loyalty within groups (think of famous group rivalrie
|Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz|