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Harnessing a personal rivalry can boost an individual's athletic performance
Date:7/2/2014

July 2, 2014 - We can all think of great sports rivals: tennis players Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, or basketball players Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. These fierce, personal rivalries seem worlds apart from a hometown 5K race. Yet even local races often produce rivals who push each other to higher levels of performance, according to new research that surveyed runners and used data from 184 races.

Rivalries are distinct from other competitions as those involved place higher stakes on their performance independent of any tangible outcomes. "Take the rivalry between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. They have held exhibition matches for charity in recent years, and despite the fact that both players have long been retired and that the outcomes of these matches carry no financial stakes, they are fiercely competitive with each other," says Gavin Kilduff of New York University's (NYU) Stern School of Business. "I would argue that this is due to the longstanding rivalry relationship between these two, which encompasses their long history of competing against each other."

After feeling puzzled by past research suggesting that competition can be detrimental to motivation in sports or otherwise Kilduff turned to rivalries to see if motivation varies based on who we are competing against and the relationship we have with those people. "I suspected that rivalry might have very different consequences from the kind of coerced laboratory competition that characterized most prior research."

In his new study published today in Social Psychological and Personality Science, Kilduff took two approaches to studying rivalries: First, he surveyed people online about their feelings toward rivals, as well as characteristics of the rivalries. Then, he analyzed results from 184 races over a 6-year time period in a U.S. running club to try to identify rivalries and to match them to changes in performance ove
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Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz
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571-354-0754
SAGE Publications
Source:Eurekalert

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