Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing

Po Bronson, Author, Ashley Merryman, Author, Po Bronson, Illustrator, Ashley Merryman, Illustrator
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Hachette/Twelve, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4555-1515-8
Reviewed on: 01/07/2013
Release date: 02/19/2013
Hardcover - 335 pages - 978-0-09-195157-3
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-09-195155-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-5168-1
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4481-7539-0
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-4555-1516-5
Paperback - 335 pages - 978-1-4555-1514-1
Hardcover - 498 pages - 978-1-4555-2955-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-61113-012-6
Hardcover - 335 pages - 978-0-09-195156-6
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Bronson and Merryman (coauthors of NurtureShock) praise healthy competition as a force that not only spurs individuals to excel but drives the progress of entire cultures, convincingly pegging the development of democracy as a side-effect of the original Greek Olympics, and the composition of Bach’s masterpieces as a product of musical/religious politics. Citing studies that explore individual performance in the contexts that offer only intrinsic motivators versus those that provide a peer challenge, they find that performance is most enhanced when a competitor feels externally judged, opponents are few, the roles and goals are clear, and the participants are well-enough matched that the outcome is uncertain until the end. The authors explore physiological components of performance (like enzymes that may correlate with whether an individual needs stress to perform optimally), the role of gender in competition (men are more likely than women to overestimate their chances and take a risk), as well as the culture of competition at large, postulating on the effects of teaching universal self-esteem and the replacement of a “playing to win” ethos with one of “playing not to lose.” Accessible for fans of pop science, yet substantial enough to have practical applications, Bronson and Merryman’s investigation will have folks rethinking the impulse to win at work and play. Agent: Peter Ginsberg, Curtis Brown. (Feb. 19)
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