Popularity among peers might be related to behavior in gradual or non‐gradual ways. In this research, a popularity subgroups approach was used to examine whether some behaviors were associated with only specific levels of popularity. Moreover, observational data in popularity research is valuable yet scarce. This research, therefore, also examined the association between popularity and observed behavior in a cooperative and competitive setting. In total, 182 early adolescents (58.2% girls, M
age = 10.7 years) completed peer nominations and were observed during a cooperative and a competitive task in groups of four. Results show that affective ties increased gradually with increasing popularity, but that relational aggression, bullying and attention‐attracting qualities distinguished popular adolescents from other early adolescents, and victimization distinguished unpopular adolescents from the other early adolescents. Observations showed that high popularity was defined by high levels of negative behavior, prosocial resource control, skillful leadership, and influence, with the effect of popularity on influence being stronger in the cooperative than the competitive setting. Using multiple methods, and taking context into account, a more complete behavioral profile of different levels of popularity is provided.