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When Does Healthy Competition Become Destructive?

Samira Ahmed discusses rivalry in sport, in cities and in our minds with psychologist Stephen Garcia, sport morality expert Maria Kavussanu and historian Philip Mansel.

What is the place of rivalry in human behaviour? What drives it? And where is the dividing line between competition as a positive force and one that wreaks havoc? Samira Ahmed discusses rivalry in sport, in cities and in our minds with psychologist Stephen Garcia, sport morality expert Maria Kavussanu and historian Philip Mansel.

(Photo: The finish line at the men's 100 meters final at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Credit: Getty Images)

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41 minutes

Stephen Garcia

Stephen Garcia is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology and of Organizational Studies at the University of Michigan. Stephen’s primary research program explores the psychology of competition through the lens of social comparison processes For example, his work has uncovered the N-Effect: this discovery reveals that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the motivation to compete decreases as the number of competitors increases when controlling for expected payoff.

Maria Kavussanu

Dr Maria Kavussanu is Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham and an expert on morality in sport.  She investigates psychological and physiological effects of competitions in sport. Her research confirmed that in competitions, enjoyment goes up, effort goes up and anxiety also goes up, all with corresponding physiological effects.

Philip Mansel

Philip Mansel is a historian of courts and cities, and of France and the Ottoman Empire. He has particular interest in Levantine cities and has published eleven books of history and biography, including Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire 1453-1924 and Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean. His latest book is Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City.

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