Psychology As Essay Competition

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In a recent study, published in the journal , I try to answer this question.

As an example, I analyze the behavioral impact of a popular energy conservation competition that is administered yearly at Princeton University (the “Do-it-in-the-Dark” campaign).

Competitions have the undesirable quality of being a “zero-sum” game (i.e., in order for you to win, someone else must lose).

Nonetheless, throughout human history, people seemed to have enjoyed organizing competitions in one form or another, from the ancient Greek Olympic Games (going back as far as 776 BC) to modern soccer (I would say American Football, but soccer is actually the most popular sport in the world).

Are you more likely to achieve either of these goals as a result of a temporary competition or because you are internally convinced that it is the right thing to do?

You might ask what the difference is if they both have the same outcome. Let's say that you do end up saving energy (temporarily) because it helps you lower your monthly bills.If you look at the behavioral pattern, you’ll quickly notice something very peculiar: once the competition starts it seems to have a remarkably positive impact on energy consumption (i.e., people are using less energy; usage steeply slopes down).Yet, here is the kicker: as soon as the competition ends, the trend is reversed and energy consumption bounces right back up to the point at which it started before the competition was launched! The ten best essays, as select­ed by the jury of the host blogs, will be post­ed on the host blogs and entered into blog car­ni­vals. If so, get those key­boards warmed up and send us your best!The win­ners will gain recog­ni­tion in the blo­go­phere and get a com­pli­men­ta­ry annu­al sub­scrip­tion to Tuition­Coach, a per­son­al­ized, inter­net-based pro­gram that de-mys­ti­fies the col­lege finan­cial aid process for stu­dents and their fam­i­lies and helps fam­i­lies find the best options to finance col­lege choic­es. Here you have some use­ful advice from a fel­low blog­ger. At one point or another in your life, you probably have enjoyed being part of some kind of competition.Of course, competitions tend to be more fun if you actually win.During the competition period, students across all residential colleges compete to conserve energy and the college that is able to conserve most energy by the end of the competition period wins and usually receives a prize of some sort (e.g., a paid study-break).I have plotted the results below (daily energy consumption across all residential colleges on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis).When we are intrinsically motivated to do something (e.g., helping others, save energy) we do it not because of an external reward, but simply because we are personally convinced that it is the right thing to do.By “right” I don’t refer to vague cultural conceptions of good and evil, but rather to morality as an evolved capacity.


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