A sweeter win: When others help us outperform them

W. De Waal-Andrews*, Ilja van Beest

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    To succeed in today’s workplaces, people often need to outperform the persons who helped them succeed. In three studies we assessed how doing so affects well-being, prosocial behavior and social perceptions. In the first two studies participants took part in a competitive version of a virtual ball-toss game, with different financial incentives in each study. Depending on condition participants either obtained the majority of the ball tosses or almost no ball tosses. Importantly, participants either “earned” this outcome as a result of their own performance or were “granted” this outcome as a result of the performance of the other players. Study 3 featured the same conditions and a combination of the incentives. However, participants now observed one of the games and rated the anticipated reaction of a focal player. The results revealed that (1) winning was better than losing, (2) especially when people’s win was granted to them and less so when they earned it for themselves, (3) which resulted in higher well-being and prosocial behavior, and also maintained meta-perceptions and other-perceptions of competence and enhanced meta-perceptions and other-perceptions of warmth. These results advance theories on interpersonal competition, social comparison, and in/exclusion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)218-230
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
    Early online date16 Oct 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


    • interpersonal competition
    • social comparison
    • social perception
    • social cognition
    • belonging
    • ostracism


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