Research Summary

Competitive Arousal

by Deepak Malhotra


A fourth stream of research examines a phenomenon that my co-authors and I have termed Competitive Arousal. We find that some features of competitive contexts (e.g., time pressure, perceptions of rivalry, and the presence of an audience) can heighten physiological arousal and lead to a win-at-any-cost mindset.  For example, as perceptions of rivalry and time pressure are heightened, competitor motivation seems to shift away from the initial goal of making the best decision and towards a new goal of winning at any cost. My work on this topic looks at when any why competitive arousal is likely to derail otherwise sound strategy, and how decision makers in a variety of contexts (e.g., negotiations, bidding wars, disputes, etc.) might avoid its ill effects.  My most recent publication on the topic incorporates a field study, a field experiment, and a laboratory experiment to examine the effects of rivalry and time pressure on competitive motivation and behavior.