With riders well into the second stage of the 3500-kilometer Tour de France this weekend, we at Vocabulary.com can’t help but marvel at their commitment to the sport. We are also reminded of a recent, related study that we thought might be useful to share with anyone playing the Challenge.

In this study, trained cyclists were shown two avatars as they rode: one representing their current speed, the other representing what cyclists were told was their personal best, though in fact the second avatar was traveling faster than the cyclist had ever been able to bike before. The (cruel? ingenious?) researchers who designed the study were curious to see how the cyclists would respond. Immediate depression? Anger? A life-changing turn against the sport of biking? No. Most of the participants in the study matched the faster speed. Many surpassed it, proving in scientific terms what athletes have been saying for years: When faced with a competitor, you can do a lot more than you think you can. Competition is powerful motivation.

Why did this study make us think of the Challenge? Because, as we celebrate the idea of play in the Vocabulary.com Blog this summer, we wanted to remind our users how valuable competition can be to both play and learning.  Watch this short video to see how. (Can't access YouTube videos? Click here to see it on Vimeo.)

Summer is the season of play, and we’re celebrating it on the Vocabulary.com Blog. Check out how playing our Challenge game might actually make you smarter here, or new ways we invite you to play with us on Facebook and Twitter here.