Know who you're up against: Counterpart identifiability enhances competitive behavior Academic Article uri icon


  • Research on pro-social behavior reports greater generosity and helping behavior toward merely identifiable persons, whose identities have been determined but not revealed, than toward unspecified, “statistical” targets. This work investigates whether identifiability can have a similar effect on behavior in competitive contexts. Data from three experiments show that providing arbitrary, non-identifying information about one’s competition enhances one’s goal-driven behavior: in competitive tasks, participants competing vs. merely identifiable counterparts displayed greater perseverance and performed better than participants whose counterparts were undetermined; in a dyadic bid setting, participants offered more money to outbid an identifiable counterpart for an auctioned product than an unspecified counterpart. In addition, we found that the effects of identifiability on competitors’ behavior were associated more strongly with the motivation not to lose than with the desire to win.

publication date

  • September 30, 2014