Know who you're up against: Counterpart identifiability enhances competitive behavior

Uriel Haran*, Ilana Ritov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank Adi Amit, Sharon Arieli, Shoham Choshen-Hillel, Tehila Kogut and five anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on previous versions of the manuscript. Thanks to Aviv Dotan, Or Dotan, Yael Levy and the staff and facilities of the Center for Behavioral Decision Research at Carnegie Mellon University for help in data collection. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 1449/11 ).


  • Auction
  • Competitiveness
  • Identifiability
  • Motivation
  • Social comparison


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