Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Endgame First

Endgame First

"In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before anything else; for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame." - José Raúl Capablanca, world chess champion 1921-1927 

Chess grandmasters frequently maintain that new players should make a thorough study of endgames before moving on to openings or middlegame principles. In the following paragraphs I hope to illustrate their foresight and how it might inform a better structured learning in Melee.

In chess, the endgame is quite naturally the goal. When playing chess our primary goal is to checkmate the opponent’s king. It follows that we should examine the most common situations from which this is possible. We don’t want to drop opportunities for an easy victory due to negligence of clear-cut and completely solvable situations. This idea is easy enough.

Second, In the case of chess, the endgame emphasizes fundamental principles by reducing the complexity of the gamestate to the extreme. This is of course exactly why the endgame is clear-cut and solvable in the first place. With only a few pieces left on the board and the end so close, the control and potentiality offered by each and every piece of material is very important and very explicit. Thus, in addition to consistent victories, study of the endgame instructs us in no uncertain terms as to the individual strengths and weaknesses of individual pieces and positions when pushed to their extreme conditions and how best to work them.

The endgame also provides clear and unmistakable feedback as to the success of our learning these principles. The situations are simple enough that we must win without leaving room for error. If we draw or lose from a favorable position then we haven’t demonstrated competency. Consider Critical Squares. Without an understanding of why these squares are critical and the capacity to follow through, the concept itself is useless. We have failed the principle that we mean to embody. The same can be said of many concepts. Although they would be quick to call Critical Squares (or Stage Control) valuable, too many players have neglected to do their homework. They might occupy the winning position, but their gameplan contains sizable and exploitable weaknesses. Without understanding and execution, a winning position may as well be a losing one.

All of this should sound very familiar to a Melee player. In a nearly exact parallel, edgeguards and extreme stage control simplifies the gamestate. The number of options available to the opponent goes from overwhelming to totally containable. In many scenarios, a character trapped deep in the corner should rarely if ever survive without having first taken a hefty risk. What’s more, by removing the option to dash away from confrontation and creating an incentive to actively take space, we can more clearly demonstrate the essential strengths and weaknesses of any given character. A mastery of this extreme position translates directly to competence at center stage. Additionally it creates for other gamestates a clear and familiar positional goal. It is the simplest way to systematically reveal the principles of a MU in a way that is direct, meaningful and pervasive.

While it is true that on the short-term a novice studying openings will outperform one studying endgames, he will fall further and further behind as the endgame-minded student perfects his execution and knowledge of the principles defined by the individual pieces, and expands inward from guaranteed winning conditions to the positions that will bring them about. The same is true for a Melee player.

In our community there is an implicit understanding that you should learn the fundamentals of the game, then work toward specifics. This is backwards. Fundamentals are simply patterns of principles that persist over many situations. In such a complex game there are always exceptions, so any of these mysterious non-entities called fundamentals are unrecognizable without first knowing what they are as well as frequently temporarily unimportant. It takes intimate knowledge of specifics to make use of the patterns and to recognize their exceptions.

If we choose to follow the advice of the grandmasters and carefully analyze how to cover options from specific, endgame-minded positions, we will
   a) have a thorough understanding and better execution in that situation,
   b) recognize over time the underlying patterns that unite situations in and across MUs as well as their differences and

   c) learn the use of fundamentals much much faster.
In this way we have defined a pragmatic method of using specific situations to unearth meaningful patterns as principles, all within the language and logic of the game itself.

Learning according to CLARION

CLARION is a cognitive architecture.

A cognitive architecture is basically a theory to approximate the process of cognition. That is,
if you sort information using these processes then you sufficiently mimic cognitive process.
Clarion does so with the basic assumptions that
a) cognition is always means of fulfilling motivation
b) motivation is either the effect of a drive or a goal structure
c) action and knowledge-bank both operate two separate processes, implicit and explicit (which I think are better called intuitive and declarative)

It should be directly stated that this is not literally true. The following subsystems are not associated with specific regions of the brain whose job it is to perform them. These are complex and loosely penned cognitive processes that are not comprehensive but are sufficient to approach cognition. If we better understand our cognitive process then we are more readily able to recognize hang-ups and solutions especially in regard to how we structure our learning.

The illustration looks much more complicated than it actually is. Let’s look at each subsystem.
  1. The kickstarter of cognition is the Motivational Subsystem. You start with a drive. Cognition itself is specifically designed as an instrument to fulfill this drive. It can range from food, water, or avoiding danger, to autonomy, dominance, recognition, or belonging, etc. We are pretty familiar with this kind of psychological assumption. You may also be motivated by a process created by a goal structure that in turn services a drive. That's fortuitous for us, since we want to use our natural tendencies to procedural ends and like goal-setting anyway.
  2. All explicit knowledge constantly cycles through Meta-Cognitive Subsystem. Meta-cognition is simply monitoring and direction. At this stage, your brain decides what is appropriate to do. The MCS filters, selects, and regulates information to be acted upon. It reviews progress, reinforces positive processes, and sets goals to solve for unsatisfactory processes.
  3. The Action Subsystem controls thought/action. It has an explicit and an implicit level that operate simultaneously.
  4. Non-Action Subsystem maintains your knowledge-bank. It has explicit and implicit resources.
  • Explicit: declarative, specific, more accessible.
    Explicit knowledge is representable. It can be communicated easily through words, symbols, or named concepts. In a melee context, all knowledge is procedural, a rule for action. I like the term Declarative because it can be and very often is declared.

  • Implicit: intuitive, holistic, fundamental, less accessible.
    Implicit knowledge is not representable. It is automatic and outside of our verbal grasp. Colloquially we sometimes hear it referred to as Unconscious but in this context that’s extremely confusing. I prefer Intuitive.

We can now discuss the two learning processes suggested by the model and its researchers.

Learning principles to apply to action. The design is placed before the experience. This knowledge is either heard and then internalized through practice in its application OR it is intentionally sought out in experience, then sorted. Anything that is or can be “worked out.” This is the method that is most familiar to us as an educational model. It is on the whole very efficient. A Top-Down approach is weak in two meaningful respects. First, the knowledge is only as good as how well it is understood. A limitation in understanding is an immediate limitation on knowledge and capacity. Second, this knowledge is limited by the capacity of its delivery. If the words fail to sufficiently address the situation then the knowledge fails to sufficiently address the situation.

Trail and error to arrive at unconscious mastery. The experience is placed before the design. This knowledge is necessarily out of reach of our conscious meta-cognition and thus poorly understood if understood at all. In this way it is almost entirely built from experience. The best example of this is grammar. Although we can learn grammar using declarative rules, most of us learn a language at too young an age to use them. We internalize the correct rules of grammar through a huge amount of trial and error. We have an acute intuitive sense for these rules but it is extremely difficult for us to formulate them on demand. Intuitive knowledge is incredibly profound, capable of magnificent complexity, and effortless to put into use—we rarely even notice. However, it is obscenely inefficient. Running yourself through the trails and errors required to assuredly arrive at correct intuitive knowledge is a monstrous task. It is also highly susceptible to misdirection by biases in interest/activity/wrong opinion/etc.

But the beauty of the dichotomy lies in the overlap. These models are not mutually-exclusive. Because they operate simultaneously, a conscientious learner can actively take advantage of both. He may gently guide the progress of his bottom-up learning with focus and mindfulness or later conceptualize the solutions that he intuitively arrives to as if by accident. This is the optimized form of Bottom-Up. He may intentionally internalize his top-down assumptions with practice, allowing a methodology to sink into an unconscious procedure that is more sensitive to exceptions. This is the optimized form of Top-Down.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Two Types of Approaches

Two Types of Approaches

In the following article I will discuss how human reaction time can be accounted for in terms of spacing and approaching to create a dynamic system of offensive option coverage. I will be pulling examples from Mango's tournament matches to best illustrate how a good approach game is much more intricate than "always doing nutty options in your face."

Unreactable Range

Before we can talk about designing effective approaches we have to discuss the ramifications of human reaction time. Humans have a natural lag in their response time caused by the mechanics of the brain sorting information. Because visual information is somewhat complex and the electrical signals go through several steps before they are comprehensible, an average response to visual stimuli is about .25-.3 seconds (15-20f). Because it requires less processing, your response to audible stimuli is faster, averaging at about .17 seconds (10f). Additionally, reactions are additive. If there is visual and auditory information your reaction speed should increase slightly, even more so with regular and focused practice. However, it should be noted that these estimates are for simple reactions in which there is only one possible trigger and response. Complex reactions in which there are multiple possible triggers and responses are significantly slower, although your exact reaction time will vary considerably depending on a) the complexity of the situation and b) how practiced your response is. It is possible with dedicated practice to reduce your reaction in replicable scenarios such as in punish game to under 18f, allowing for something like consistent reaction techchases with Sheik or Falcon.
I suggest checking your personal levels at
http://cognitivefun.net/test/16 (simple audio)
http://cognitivefun.net/test/1 (simple visual)
http://cognitivefun.net/ (tests tab for more complex scenarios)

Applying this temporal limitation to the neutral game, we run into an interesting spatial problem. In every matchup, there is an invisible range that, once passed, prevents you from being able to cover options on reaction. Some players refer to this as an “attack bubble” or “range of effectiveness” or something similar but to preserve a clear distinction between the full spatial range of a nair and the range at which you can no longer react to and shield/CC a nair, I’ll call the latter the unreactable range. Using an estimate of 20f (this number can and should be individualized for personal levels) for a reaction, the outer limit of the unreactable range is located at exactly where a given character can have an active hitbox after 20f plus the startup time of whatever your reaction is. Keep in mind too that this range can change with relative frame advantage. If a character is experiencing 15f of endlag then they obviously can’t begin to move for 15f, reducing the unreactable range. If you are in lag then that range may effectively increase. When making decisions from within the unreactable range, you accept that you cannot account for all options on reaction and are in essence making a guess. When making decisions from outside of that range, you accept that with good execution you can react to anything that happens.

Understanding and recognition of the unreactable range allows for a very useful model for approaching in two variations.

Type 1: Incremental Approach

In this approach, you aggressively move forward to the very edge of the unreactable range, then you stop.
Because for the entire length of this approach you maintain your capacity to react to any counter-measures by the opponent, it is completely safe. But because you are rapidly closing space, this movement is still hyper-aggressive and frequently prompts some kind of response by your opponent. By your design their impulsive response is reactable and can net you a large punish on top of the ample stage control.
The incremental approach is most difficult when your opponent decides to run at you at the same time. When this happens the space between the characters closes extremely quickly and it is more difficult, though still possible, to stop/shield/DD at the correct spot.

Mango(Falco) vs Mew2King(Marth)
Mango(Puff) vs Scar(Falcon) note the very precise and consistent location where mango shields/starts his jump. Mango will often flash shield to stop in place when an incremental approach is his intention.
Mango(Fox) vs Hungrybox(Puff) at 0:40, 1:18, 3:10, 3:41, 7:48, etc

Type 2: Running Mixup 

In this approach, you aggressively move forward into the unreactable range and initiate a mixup. An approaching mixup should be specifically designed to cover options. For example, a Fox can mix up between running shine (beats shield and in place options), deep nair (beats a WD/dash away/jump) and a WD back (beats an attack). A fox that actively chooses between those three approaching options can beat most of his opponent’s options. He can alter this set of mixups as the MU or the player demands, but this is the rough design. It is as close as melee gets to rock paper scissors, and a player that frequently initiates mixups is either a) confident that he can consistently out-guess his opponent in an unreactable situation based on past interactions and outpunish off of trades or b) stupid.

Mango(Fox) vs Taj(Marth)
Mango(Fox) vs Hungrybox(Puff) at 1:14, 1:32, 1:40, 2:21, 2:35, 2:52, etc

Just as Type 2 requires the Fox player to actively mix up his approaches to avoid being predictable, so too does approaching as a concept require a player to actively mix up between types 1 and 2. A player that never enters the unreactable range never actually presents a real threat when he moves forward and can be advanced on and poked without any fear, defeating the purpose of incremental approaches. A player that never stops short of the unreactable range is not making good use of his stage control and and can be easily beaten by a strong defensive game with good risk reward from the corner. In order for either type to maintain effectiveness and good risk reward for the attacker, the threat of the other must be present and respected.

In this way, the concept of approaching once again reiterates the importance of strong footsies.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Intro to MangoPuff: Profiting From Risks

Intro to MangoPuff: Profiting From Risks
A guest post by Eru

In this article I'll be analyzing the neutral game of Mango's Jigglypuff vs. Fox with the goal of answering an important question: What can Puff players (and everyone else) learn from the neutral game of Mango's first main, specifically in the Fox matchup?

My answer is simple: quite a bit. But first, let me explain my method. I'll be drawing my examples in this piece from sets vs. Jman, Mew2king, and PC Chris*. I've chosen these players because at one time or another it's fair to say that they've all played the Puff matchup well. The more recent material from Mango's stream (vs. Lucky, Alex19, and S2J) is helpful, but not really appropriate for an introduction. I will use these examples to illuminate what we’ll call the two rules of MangoPuff:
  1. Getting hit is a good thing.
  2. Unsafe aerials are a good thing.
Obviously both of these principles need some explanation; so let's get to it!

Principle #1: Getting hit is a good thing.

For the rest of this piece I'm going to talk about the neutral game as a data-gathering mission. Every time you put out a move/jump/etc and elicit a response that response is valuable data. Ideally, once you acquire enough data you will be able to predict the opponent's response to a given action or situation and can maximize your profit on confirmation of their commitment. This model works very nicely for MangoPuff, particularly with the application of principle #1.

Simply put, MangoPuff prefers to hang close to the opponent and trade hits. This is because each time he hits or is hit he gains information. Take the opening of this set as an example. Mango nairs towards Jman three times and fairs at head level three times. Why? This is obviously unsafe and could be cc-grabbed, upsmashed, etc. The answer is simple: data. Mango is, in effect, asking Jman, “What do you do when I approach?" Jman's responses over the next few minutes determine Mango's course of action.

Moreover, it's also important to understand that principle #1 acts as a way of keeping the opponent honest. Think about it; are you worried about an opponent who never hits you? Of course not. When MangoPuff becomes a pest to the opponent, hanging around at head level like a swarm of bees, he not only gains data from that opponent, but he forces the opponent to respect his space.

Perhaps the most important aspect of principle #1 is that by the time you get to the end of a game you have so much data that you really don't have to fear the "random" upsmash because you will recognize when it's coming. In this example, even though Mango is at death percent, he nairs into Jman, fairs his head and grabs him (because Jman shields, a reaction Mango clearly anticipates based on past interactions), and nairs him several more times before ending the stock. There's plenty that fox could do, but only so much that this fox will do.

Near the end of the match, almost everything Mango does to Jman is technically unsafe, but in context it is not. Mango has hit Jman enough times by this point to know exactly what he's willing to do in most of these situations. But more importantly, Mango uses that knowledge to inform his play.  In the second game he immediately hits Jman twice with fade-back aerials. The reason? He has the read that Jman is attempting to dash dance and grab when Puff lands. This knowledge makes it easy to play spacing tricks on his opponent, especially with Jigglypuff’s aerial mobility. But what about getting hit being a good thing? Well, in this example, Mango is hit by Jman’s first full hop dair but reacts to and grabs the second, transforming a "safe" full hop approach by fox into what could be a rest.

Note: if you watch the entirety of the set linked in the examples, you'll see Mango get away with things that your puff/character could never get away with most of the time. The easy (and wrong) conclusion is something about "top player effect, blah, blah, blah." In fact, the reason Mango can do absurd things like this is that he has collected enough data to correctly create, predict and react to that situation. This brings us to principle #2.

Principle #2: Unsafe aerials are a good thing.

Most of the groundwork for explaining this concept has already been laid, so I'll use specific examples to explain it in more detail. When I refer to "unsafe" aerials I usually mean nairs and fairs that could be punished by cc grab, upsmash, a preemptive nair, etc. Mango uses nair and fair as spacing mix ups to allow his puff to achieve the equivalent of a Marth dash dance (Game 1, 10-12 seconds, 38-41 seconds  ) by subtly shifting his perceived threat range. Notice how in each of the cited clips Mango mixes up his spacing by feigning to move forward with nair or fair while anticipating a rush in and perfectly spacing a fade back such that he has space to react and punish. In one case it leads to a kill, in another, a whiffed grab that with better execution could have been a kill. Thus, an "unsafe" aerial is with intention actually clever micro spacing calculated to coax the opponent into a bad situation. Additionally, "unsafe aerials" are a calculation on Mango's part that in many situations it is preferable to trade hits and lose than to leave fox free to take stage, whittle away your options, and finally read an increasingly predictable fadeback.

Diving a bit deeper into principle #2, let’s take a look at the Super Champ Combo set vs PC Chris. This set is instructive for several reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that PC Chris plays this matchup in 2008 remarkably like many of the better foxes in 2016: the full hop aerials, the smart shield/spot dodge use, and the lasers are eerily similar to Armada's approach to the matchup today.  This match is notable for our purposes because PC plays patiently and only takes what he thinks is mostly guaranteed, though Mango will force him to make several plays he would like to take back. In game one, PC almost exclusively shields whenever Mango attempts to poke him with a nair or a fair (Game 1, :29, :48, 1:02, etc), and as a result, Mango gets frustrated with PC's distinctly un-M2K reactions and adapts poorly, losing game one, but not before downloading PC's reactions to several important interactions.

Games 2-5 are a bit different, though in game three Mango is clearly frustrated by PC's unwillingness to fall for his "traps." Hungrybox normally expresses his frustration in-game when he mindlessly bairs in the same pattern, allowing his opponent to wall him off or punish a telegraphed land/fadeback. When frustrated, MangoPuff will make this sort of decision. A badly placed nair that lands directly in front of Fox is easily punished and confirms for PC that he's beginning to wear Mango down. The rest of game three sees PC grow increasingly confident against Mango's approaching nairs and fairs, resulting in aerials out of shield, grabs--even a rare upsmash--while Mango is slow to counter-adapt. Slow, but not incapable. While it may seem as if PC is firmly in control of the matchup, Mango demonstrates in game 5 that PC's newly-discovered aggression will hurt him (Game 5, 0:14-16 and 0:53-55). In these early examples, PC survives but only thanks to a few well-placed spotdodges. Mistakes like this on PC's part eventually lead to the beginning of the end in this exchange (note the response to PC's full hops).

Let's summarize what we've learned from this short time with MangoPuff:

1. Mango prefers to risk trading hits over surrendering space to fox because it allows him to gain information. Information is king. 
2. One of the best ways to get the sort of information he's looking for is through "unsafe" aerials and approaches.

As an addendum, let me add that by recognizing when and where the opponent will try to whiff punish an unsafe aerial we've also been provided with a functional model for Puff's version of a dashdance and where it is most profitable to use her fade back. Finally, I think it's important to respond to the inevitable "he's just doing good player things" charge that is most commonly leveled at Mango's Falcon/Puff/Marth. The proper response for the thoughtful melee player: so what? Seriously, why is watching a good player do great things with your character somehow inapplicable to the development/theorycrafting that happens with that character? Let the "good player things" be a glimpse into the alternate potential of a character rather than an anomaly.  Melee isn't baseball. A small sample size shouldn't be immediately discarded or overlooked; rather, the nature of melee demands careful qualitative analysis that can yield impressive results--PPMD and 2016 Hungrybox are recent examples of the value of this approach.

There's so much about Mango's Puff that's still woefully neglected (run up shield and cross ups spring to mind), but hopefully this initial foray into MangoPuff analysis leads to a fuller understanding of neglected tactics with much to teach us.

* I would love to use material from his stream against Leffen last year, but it seems that no one saved that recording and it is forever lost to time. If, by chance, you happen to have/know where that recording can be located please don't hesitate to share.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Top Dog Notes

top dog: the science of winning and losing

raw notes:

Before studying under Socrates, Plato was a champion wrestler. To the Greeks, competition, especially athletic competition epitomized humanistic virtue. They have a word for it, Arete. Arete means “demonstrated excellence” but the connotation is of a supreme moral virtue. The Olympic games evolved from a footrace that was used to decide who would light a holy torch, who was chosen or worth to do so in the sight of divinity. This subtext persevered to the point that some generations later the greeks and the persians would actually call a truce during the olympic games so that they could travel through each other’s lands to compete fairly. This sense of and respect for sport as an moral human activity persists through culture and is at least partially innate.

Psychological factors boost the “competitive drive” which is something like your immediate capacity to unconsciously tap into extra focus, energy and attention.

Generally speaking, competition teases out better results. Bicyclists racing each other out-perform cyclists racing against a clock by 5 seconds per mile.

Competition is almost as stressful as jumping out of a plane with no training. But unlike jumping out of a plane, it is not acclimated to. The chemical levels in new and veteran competitors are effectively the same. The difference is the behavioral response (either natural or trained) to that stress.
Individuals respond naturally to the stress of competition differently. Naturally, approximately 1/2 benefit greatly, 1/4 to some degree, and 1/4 actually reduce their effort.

Focusing on the rewards of competing/winning is a stimulant, focusing on the odds of winning is a deterrent. People respond to the promise of a reward even if the text is flashed for less that 1/100th of a second and is not consciously recognized. This implies that self-knowledge of motivation is very unreliable.

In order for competition to be a stimulant, a victory MUST be perceived as possible.
The smaller the field of competitors, the more intense the competitive drive. Test scores are always higher with fewer students in the room.
In a boarding school setting, when paired with high achievers low achievers almost invariably shut themselves down while the high-achiever is unaffected. When paired against someone of similar skill, both students are likely to perform at a higher level.

When pitted against someone perceived as a rival drive increases dramatically, especially in practice.
When perceived as the underdog drive increases dramatically on the day of, provided that victory is still considered as possible.
(Yale vs Harvard football teams. When one team has an undefeated record, the other team wins in the head-to-head 70% of the time.)

Home-field advantage is very powerful and innate. This is a territorial behavior, an evolutionary advantage. Humans are more aggressive, competitive, confident, when engaging in a familiar environment even if this environment is only marginally more familiar. Conversely, we are naturally much less aggressive, competitive, and confident when entering into a space that we perceive as inhabited by someone else. Drivers are slower to leave a parking spot if they see someone waiting for it. Deals always go in the favor of whomever’s office the deal is held in (the exact reason that countries negotiate on neutral ground). We say "excuse me" and change our body language to be submissive as we walk past someone that is standing on the sidewalk. In a FPS, a person that arrives at an area 10 seconds before the other player is more likely to win an even engagement.

Other people watching your matches is a support and boosts success if you are comfortable performing/this situation isn’t unfamiliar. However it is a hindrance and inhibits success if you consider yourself to be learning.
For employers, intermittent/random checking in provides the best results. This preserves expectations without being a distraction (constant monitoring). More often for extroverts, less for introverts.

Comt gene: there are warriors that use up dopamine quickly vs worriers that use it up at a slower rate.
High dopamine levels correspond with stress and emotional/cognitive overload. Warriors are better suited for this but don’t perform at optimal levels without stress. Worriers are ill-suited for stressful environments but will outperform a warrior on the long-term after training to acclimate to the task and in peace-time.

Women largely refuse to compete until they have decent odds to win. They are not risk averse, they are simply better at recognizing when they are going to lose. For women to compete despite bad odds they must be in a social context that rewards competition for competition’s sake.
Men are not especially responsive to odds. Men can’t resist a chance to win and prioritize the best result over the probability of results.
That is, for men, competing for something is more important that the results of the competition. When the stakes are higher, men make riskier decisions and push for a higher level of play, women push for more consistent results resulting in a lower high-extreme (example: in a high stakes golf tournament the placing men score further below par than a different tournament on the same course while placing women are slightly closer to par than at another tournament). This is all of course typical, not a rule.
A feminine style is more successful in an infinite game where the object is to get and stay ahead. Female wallstreet speculators outpredict men by 7% accuracy.
A masculine style is more successful in a finite game with a defined finish line.

The social environment determines the form that competition takes.
When separated into groups and pitted against one another in a tournament, children develop real hatred for rival tribes and lash out in any possible way. But when given the opportunity to collaborate for the good of both groups (shared movie night etc), the divisive and violent behavior vanishes. This is almost certainly carry over from hunter-gatherer roles.

Men are predisposed to groups, women to pairs.
In a group, self-assertion socially or in terms of improving results is necessary for communication. This breeds localized competition. A group is a flexible and purpose-driven (groups almost always form around a common interest) model that allows for, encourages, but isn’t overtaken by individualism or individual conflict because there is always at least one mediator. In a pair, the purpose is rarely defined and emphasize commonality and suppress difference to avoid a conflict without the tools for resolution.
Pairs are fragile. This necessitates a keen perceptivity as well as a disinclination to compete needlessly and instead an emphasis on mutual reliability. Newcomers are not assets, they are threats to stability. Competition within a pair looks to achieve equality, not superiority.

When boys are paired, the lower achiever becomes embarrassed and frustrated. His ego is at risk.
When boys are put in groups, boys immediately assume roles and assist one another in order to achieve the best result for the group (implies competition with other groups).
When girls are paired, the lower achiever asks for and receives help.
When girls are put in groups, they are less engaged and work less efficiently because they feel a need to first establish good will within the group so as not to outpace the others.

Being a small fish in a big pond is amazing for girls, but absolutely terrible for boys.
High achievers pull other girls up, they push other boys down. This is only really meaningful though when the competition is pervasive and not localized (example: a charter school, where you feel like you’re competing in life all day with no release or recuperation. This effect is not present when competing in a game that's only played for an hour at a time).

Successful teams are as small as possible to get the job done.

60% of a team’s success is predetermined by the members’ ability and the goal
30% is determined by the initial interactions that determine the roles/internal network
10% is what they do from middle to close.

red team members introduce themselves as a niche skill/subject expert and how it could benefit the group
blue team members introduced themselves as their job
red team is by a consequence outcome-focussed from the start, completely outperforming the blue team
interviewing each other about interests and expertise as an interview is a consistence performance boon because individuals are much easier to use well.
Teams work best when participants know their roles when the pressure is on. Not every role needs to be equal, in fact focussing on equality in a group setting greatly reduces efficiency.
Team performance drives inter relationships, not the other way around.
The best method for increasing team effectiveness is to identify and double down on your individual function within the team, be that as an instigator, a support, a leader, an aggressor, etc.

gain vs prevention orientation
playing to win vs playing not to lose, fight vs flight.
these are two distinct brain operations, one of which might overtake the other in the moment.
in competition, gain orientation has proven superior at a higher level of play.
it is easier to maintain a gain orientation with nothing to lose.
this seems irrational and it is but consider the reality of it. Would you rather take a penalty kick when the score is 2-3 and missing makes your team lose or a kick when the score is 2-2 and scoring makes your team win? You prefer the win. Everyone prefers the win even though the situation is mechanically identical. It’s just a penalty kick. Only the perception differs. The statistics for the win are much better than the not-lose, 92% to 62%. That’s the reality. The brain system used in gain orientation is better for performance.
Language wise, one is a challenge, the other is a threat. Sometimes changing the wording of directions is enough to change results on the test.

Prevention orientation makes heavy use of 4 discreet regions of the brain and is more conscious, both significantly slowing the brain down. It highlights risks over rewards.
In a challenge/gain state you are not expected to be perfect, you are more interested in rewards. It stimulates both the reward region and hormones that induce comfort and familiarity, allowing for a more automatic and faster response.

when your brain detects an unexpected mistake, it flashes an electrical pulse within about 70 milliseconds to identify that a mistake was made. First, there’s a drop in voltage corresponding in intensity with the shock, then a recovery period lasting maybe 500 milliseconds = .5 seconds during which the plasticity of the brain changes to allow for "correct" neural paths to generate. When experiencing high levels of negative stress/overload a shock is accompanied by a shorter recovery period. This obviously means less learning. Less efficient use of the system. This often triggers hard onset of prevention orientation and mistakes lead to more mistakes with minimal opportunity for learning from them. Downward spiral.
Interestingly, via empathy/displacement, this can even be triggered by perceiving mistakes made by other competitors! There was a figure skating competition where a star couple got injured and had to withdraw from their retirement routine, much to the dismay of everyone in the room. From that moment, every competitor’s routine was marked by more and more errors.

Prevention orientation is highly sensitive to details, ravenously consumes information, and works hard to resolve ambiguity before moving on, immediately losing sight of their goal. With time, this might be optimal. But in some contexts, the game is moving on without you. Gain orientation marches toward the goal. You learn the most from feedback on your mistakes.
Just as consistency by definition reproduces the same results, growth and creativity require disinhibition and mistakes to learn from.

Any emotion is amazing IF it is used/channeled as a motivator.
competitive fire cannot exist when the goal is to make it through the day.

anxiety is chemically identical to excitement. Competitors that interpret the raised stress as excitement have a performance boon.
Individuals have different zones of anxiety levels that are for them optimal. Might be low might be high, might be in between.

The mental states needed to compete are NOT necessarily
socially palatable
long-term sustainable
related to well being

perfectionism and intolerance for mistakes is essential during practice
reassurance and positivity has a negative correlation with success
(consider, a lottt of people say that their best performances ever were marked by being angry)
angry is better than fear, it’s a mental stimulant on the fight path (provided a distinction between anger and indignation)

german children learning english
asked to visualize the best possible scenario having learning english (parents are proud, talking with english rock band etc). Then half of the kids are asked to write a list of possible obstacles that might come up, the other half is not. The kids with visualization alone have a C average 16 weeks later. The kids with visualization and problem anticipation have an A average. 10 minutes of critical thought influenced learning over an entire semester.
visualization as a method to prepare for a scenerio is amazing, visualization as daydreaming is harmful. Which one is the motivator/stimulant to make a real change? If success is taken for granted then effort is inhibited.

an additive reaction says if only I had done _ then _, learning
a subtractive reaction says if only I hasn’t done _ then _, regret
additive thinking prompts improvement, subtractive prompts worse performance

Creative fields are not immune to competition as a motivator
rennaisance artists’s contracts usually said “better than ___”, mattise vs picasso, picasso vs braque, van gogh and gaugine, etc
paragone assisted in the invention of “the artist”
improv contests have much better results than improv demonstrations
in a general population, competition stifles or stimulates creativity and quality based on the individual. Children with high agency perform well in a competitive atmosphere, children with low agency suffer. This is not to say that agency is a cause of creativity, but it is a prerequisite.


Testosterone is motivation.
The longer your ring finger vs your index finger, the higher your sensitivity to testosterone, due to hormone levels in the womb.
When present at higher levels in anticipation of a challenge, T crosses the blood brain barrier and stimulates the production of extra neurotransmitters.
It dampens fear response, makes brain more responsive to reward, risk reward calculation changes and becomes more accurate by removing the natural aversion to ambiguity.
In a test, T tablets boosted math scores by 9%.
This persists in both genders unless you bond with the competitor before or during competition (pairing response. Consider: Michael Jordan purposefully taunts the opposite team). This diffuses the testosterone response, as it reduces the desire to win.
It goes both ways. Heavy inertia. High motivation increases T production, high T count increases motivation.
Note: in a complex test where the goal wasn’t to win the game but something tertiary, testosterone tablets made people play /less/ aggressively. Aggression is not a symptom of high T unless it is appropriate. High T is high motivation.
Testosterone is derived from cholesterol using zinc (beans, whole grains) and fats.

Cortisol is necessary for metabolism and repair.
It is associated with a number of bad stuff like depression, high levels of anxiety and impaired learning. But it doesn’t cause stress, it is produced as a response to stress. Administered orally it explicitly calms you. Thus temporary spikes are good. Reduces fear and manages noradrenaline vs adrenaline ratio (flight vs fight).
Cortisol is the foil to T. It makes you care less about the outcome, able to forget about a mistake, and normalizes body chemistry.

Oxytocin, the love hormone
forges deep and enduring bonds, lasts a few minutes in the brain, found after childbirth/orgasm/a close hug.
It increases sensitivity to body language/expression/etc. It prompts a friend vs foe response, then the body follows suit. Love and aggression intertwined, fighting out of care.