Want Faster Race Times? Get a Rival
Are you looking to log a new PR? A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has a suggestion: Get a rival.
To evaluate the effects of rivalry, researchers at the University of Exeter recruited forty male and female university students for a game of darts. Participants were blindfolded and then asked to throw the darts at a dartboard. When their performance was insulted by a player from a rival university, students rallied and their dart-throwing improved.
“If a person—an athlete, business professional or a recreational runner—gets discouraging feedback from someone they do not trust or see as an outsider, perhaps a key rival, their performance will not suffer if they actively try to prove this person wrong,” lead author Tim Rees, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, told Runner’s World.
Researchers also noted that, when criticism came from a teammate, students’ performance worsened. If the feedback from their fellow players was positive, however, performance improved.
The conclusion? Researchers say if you want to up your game, positive support from a colleague or discouraging comments from a rival are ideal.
“The study reminds us that negative outside feedback need not be a destructive force,” Greg Chertok, M.Ed., director of sport psychology at the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, New Jersey, told Runner’s World. “The anger or frustration you feel from criticism from ‘rivals’ can be embraced as fuel and channeled into a strong performance.”