Yeah, it is a very interesting question.
I don’t think there is a difference. I believe there are certain circumstances that pique our emotions more than others. Being emotionally involved in a contest tends to bring out those “claws” you mentioned.
We have to be competitive to survive. That’s from yester-eon with the whole “being chased by wild animals” and whatnot. It’s in our nature to try to edge out others–whether that is in accomplishments, love, food or parking spaces.
Personality plays a big part, I believe. Alpha males/females are still very athletic, very dominant, and extraverted; beta males/females are more reserved, introspective, and meeker. We still fall into different sociological roles when dealing with our communities and groups.
I was a beta male growing up–physically pretty small, not athletic, etc. I hit puberty and filled out and also decided to make myself less passive. I pushed myself to be more gregarious, more driven, more domineering (tempered with good ‘ol Christian humility, praise the baby Jesus!).
Being in the military, I learned the discipline necessary to keep my emotional “claws” under control. That’s not to say I don’t use them. As a soldier, I’m still fiercely competitive when I need to be–be it in Iraq or during Gov 2.0 seminars (watch out! ha!) It’s just that I channel that competitive nature in very “driven” and useful ways, like you mentioned, Megan.
And that’s not to say that when the claws do come out, it’s a bad thing. Again, I think it’s just who we are. We compete–some more overtly than others. I don’t believe there is a difference in the nature itself, just in how we channel the energy and behave.