We know who likes us, but not who competes against us

By: , Noah Eisenkraft, Hillary Anger Elfenbein


Research on dyadic meta-accuracy suggests that people can accurately judge how their acquaintances feel toward them. However, existing studies have focused exclusively on positive feelings, such as liking. We present the first research on dyadic meta-accuracy for competition, a common dynamic among work colleagues.

Data from the sales staff at a car dealership and students working on project teams suggest that the prevailing model of dyadic meta-accuracy breaks down for judgments of competition. For liking, projecting one’s own feelings promotes dyadic meta-accuracy because colleagues tend to reciprocate each other’s liking.

For competition, the tendency to compete against superior performers reduces reciprocity and renders self-projection ineffective. You can accurately estimate how much your colleagues like you, but are unlikely to know how much those same colleagues compete against you.