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Abstract

This paper explores the interactive effect of competitiveness and choice structure on symbolic (noninstrumental) choices in competitive situations. When individuals in competitive situations learn the stated preference of their opponent, their own choice depends on their competitiveness and on whether they are in an inclusive-choice situation (in which both competitors can end up with the same option) or an exclusive-choice situation (in which they cannot). We obtained this predicted interaction in an imagined video game challenge (Studies 1 and 3), cooking contest (Study 2), and March Madness bracket competition (Study 4). Highly competitive people copied their opponent's choices in exclusive-choice situations, and seemed to do this because they wanted to frustrate their opponent (Studies 3 and 4).