How we judge our own performance may be intrinsically linked to the performance of others, says a recent study published in “Neuron” and reported on Science Daily.

During the study, researchers found that people evaluated their own performance more positively when they were working with others who were performing well. Yet, when they were then placed in a competitive environment against others who were performing well, they evaluated their own performance more negatively.

“We found that although people estimated their abilities on the basis of their own performance in a rational manner, their estimates of themselves were partly merged with the performance of others,” says first author Marco Wittmann, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford.

“[People] might feel better or worse about themselves depending on how well the group they are working with is doing, or they might feel worse about themselves when facing a strong competitor,” says Wittmann.

The study also found that this “self-other-mergence” action taking place is associated with an area in the dorsomedial frontal area of the brain, which is part of the theory-in-mind network. These findings suggest that it’s in this area of the brain that people integrate details about themselves and others to compute and decide on their place in a social network.

Wittman says, “The findings potentially have implications for social interactions in the workplace as well as clinical disorders such as depression.”