My advisor has bred a very competitive lab culture where students frequently compete for power and attention. I am not naive to think this is uncommon, and I suspect many PhD students are by nature very competitive.
My overall question is this: How does one thrive and remain at the top of the pack in such an environment? How do I cultivate influence and power within such a group?
These scenarios have occurred frequently for many people in the group.
During presentations, when my advisor doesn't know what the presenter is saying, students from the audience frequently interject the presenter and try to explain concepts from the presentation. To me this seems very rude as this doesn't respect the fact that the presenter normally knows more than the others students in the room. Students frequently stand up in the middle of a presentation and start having side discussions on nearby white boards. This has happened to many student presenters in my group.
During paper discussions, students tend to filibuster and interrupt each other and try to talk for as long as possible.
During group meeting, my advisor may ask one student to complete a task, but other students will also try to complete the same task with the belief that they would be able to one up the other student and do a better job.
The most successful students in the group also happen to engage most frequently in these demonstrations of power.
My advisor does not actively encourage such behaviors, but by inaction condones them.