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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If everyone gets a prize, doesn’t that devalue the top prize and foster mediocrity?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26879points) May 31st, 2015

In contest, events, etc. where all the participants get a prize, doesn’t that take away from getting the top prize? One could say getting the top prize was a matter of luck, or that the skill needed to achieve it was not that important. With knowing you will get a prize basically for just showing up, how does that not foster mediocrity, where is the incentive to do better, or do your very best?

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12 Answers

Darth_Algar's avatar

People are ego-driven creatures, the win itself is motivation enough for most. Why do you think people get so competitive even in situations where there is no prize?

gondwanalon's avatar

If everyone gets a prize then the prize is meaningless. But like @Darth_Algar said, it won’t stop competition. Prize or no prize, everyone knows who won.

I was in a canoe race yesterday. Only 1st place canoe got a prize. My 6 man canoe was in last place battling it out with the 6 man canoe just in front of us. It was a real all out fight back and forth for 12 miles. Neither canoe wanted to be last. I don’t recall ever working so hard. We didn’t prevail but we didn’t roll over roll over either. We made that other canoe team earn 2nd to last place. HA!

johnpowell's avatar

Is this a complainant about same-sex marriages?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@gondwanalon If everyone gets a prize then the prize is meaningless.
This is in a lot of ways, true. I won’t argue people will try to get a worthless prize; people would be willing to cheat to get a worthless plastic trophy. In defense I would have to say that trophy and title no one will likely remember three years down the road, represents they were top at that moment, they can at least, look back on it and have that memory. Out of all those who would not care for number one status, and who might not even compete if the top prize only went to the best or first might just enter the competition not because they are going to actually try, or even if they knew they were not the best, but simply because they will get something. Maybe there is a bit of pride not wanting to be dead last, or in the eyes of many, the worse of the worse, but that, to me, is a different light than just cruising along in a competition because you know just showing up and putting in minimal effort, you get rewarded something.

@johnpowell Is this a complainant about same-sex marriages?
Just so you can not feel you hijacked something, should I say you are right? ~~~
Er…. No, I think you misread the details; I am going to go out on a limb and believe that is what it was and not that you could not comprehend the subject matter. ;-|

stanleybmanly's avatar

It seems that it depends very much on the nature of the prizes. For example, consider a contest with a top prize of a million dollars. Even if every entrant is granted some token prize for entering, that in no way cheapens the incentive involved with a million bucks.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

I hate the idea of a fifth place award. It is dishonest.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@stanleybmanly Even if every entrant is granted some token prize for entering, that in no way cheapens the incentive involved with a million bucks.
The million bucks will still be spendable and by far not devalued in actual purchasing power, but the ideal of what it represents will suffer. Let me ask you this way, if there was a contest, like a biathlon but you had mountain bikes and shot guns. At certain points you had to dismount and try to shoot clay pigeons. II know it is not something I would be good at but if the top prize was $30,000 but just for showing up and participated you got $8,000 wouldn’t you waste an afternoon trying to pop clay pigeons? People who have no chance or intention of trying to win would just go, clog the competition just because it was an extra 8k in it for them. How would that indicate how well those who won were skill wise? That would be like a pro car racer racing against student drivers who just learned to drive, even if he/she was not a championship driver he/she would still be able to shellac all of the student drivers and on paper appear to be a very top notch driver but at best be above average. Those who do not know the level of competition he raced against would think he beat racers as good and as skilled as he/she was.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Oddly, in professional sports all players get monetarily compensated just for playing, yet that still doesn’t reduce the drive to win that pro athletes have.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

This is a very interesting question. There has been a shift in the US culture over the past decade or two to recognize all participants, be it in a competition or just in the workplace. Let’s face it; everyone appreciates positive recognition. What some don’t understand is that it has to be sincere, timely and specific. Telling me, “Good job!” at the end of a competition or at the end of the year by an employer during a review doesn’t meet that criteria.

As for prizes or awards, it just depends upon the expectations set up on the front end. The “Everyone walks away a winner!” mentality can be detrimental. All humans have a level of competition; it is just more dominant in some. For those that are on the higher end of the scale, the prize or award is more valuable. For those that aren’t, it can condition them to expect a takeaway no matter how well they do. This can manifest into resentment.

ucme's avatar

Perfect description of the military.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Hypocrisy Central. I see your point. But in real life, there are qualifying events prior to the big competition in which folks are weeded out. This is particularly true in athletic events. I can’t travel to Wyoming, rope a wild horse, then call in from the prairie to enter the horse in the Kentucky Derby. Nor should I believe that since I can swim, I qualify for the Olympic team. Your hypothetical example of $8000 bucks for showing up would certainly not be offered to just any amateur bozo. In fact anyone offering that kind of money is not going to hand it to a nobody. The entire purpose of such events is to make money though assembling in one place the best in the field.

gondwanalon's avatar

When you fall on your face, sometimes the kindest thing to do is to say nothing. When you lose a race it is best to get nothing. This keeps you hungry to train harder and fight harder next time.

At a few dragon boat races the non winning teams get a participation medals. Every one else seems good with it. But to me a participation award has LOSER written all over it. No thanks! Call me a weirdo nut case but I never accept it.

I’ve been competing in athletic since 1979. Very likely I’ve seen it all. I’ve run early marathons where about all you got is a t-shirt and a cup of Gator Aid® for finishing. I won a marathon in the early 80’s overall and got a very cheap/flimsy homemade medal on a cheap ribbon and I cherish it. Nowadays they give you a big honking medal (puts lots of other stuff) and one or two t-shirts just to finish. All of which means nothing to me. Oddly so many people seem to love this easy gotten bling. Whatever rattles your cage. HA!

Even stranger is that people are willing to cheat to “win” a medal. Last January I was on a dragon boat team that cheated (there are so many ways to cheat like sub’ing better paddlers from another team in the finals) to “win” 2nd place. Our team captain handed me probably the most beautiful competition medal that I have ever seen (can’t bear to look at it now). I told him that I didn’t do anything to earn this but I took it as to not make a seen. It was so bizarre to see all my team mates parading around so proud wearing a medal that we cheated to get. I was embarrassed and humiliated. It’s much better to finish dead last and get nothing than to cheat for a gold medal bogus victory.

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