Lay beliefs about competition: scale development and gender differences

Kesebir, S, Lee, S Y, Elliot, A J and Pillutla, M (2019) Lay beliefs about competition: scale development and gender differences. Motivation and Emotion, 43 (5). pp. 719-739. ISSN 0146-7239 OPEN ACCESS


Women are less competitive than men in most contexts studied. This difference has been linked to the gender gap in socio-economic outcomes. To examine whether this gender difference is linked to differential beliefs about competition, we developed a scale measuring lay beliefs about competition and tested whether these beliefs account for gender differences in competitive attitudes and behaviors. A mini meta-analysis (N = 2,331) of responses to this scale shows that men attribute more positive outcomes to competition than women. In particular, men are more likely to believe that competition improves performance, builds character, and leads to creative problem-solving. In contrast, the gender differences are smaller, less robust, and inconsistent for the different negative outcomes attributed to competition, such as encouraging unethical behavior, hurting self-esteem, and damaging relationships. We also show in two studies that only positive lay beliefs about competition predict competitive attitudes and behaviors, and account for (some of) the gender difference in competitiveness. We discuss possible reasons that women and men hold different beliefs about competition and the implications of these differences for the optimal design of social and organizational structures.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in 'Motivation and Emotion'. The final authenticated version is available online at

Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2019 10:50
Date of first compliant deposit: 20 Jun 2019
Subjects: Competition
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2024 02:04

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