Margarete Boos, Xaver Franiel, and Michael Belz (2015)

Competition in human groups—Impact on group cohesion, perceived stress and outcome satisfaction

Behavioural Processes, 120:64-68.

This study on competition in human groups was performed within the context of the competitive outcome interdependence concept: the degree to which personal outcomes among group members are affected by the consequences of task performance of others, e.g. when one group member gains a high reward for a task, this lowers the available reward for other group members. Our computer-based multi-participant game empirically assessed how competitive versus neutral conditions influenced the reward-maximising behaviour of 200 undergraduate students functioning in ten-person groups—each playing two games (1 neutral and 1 competitive), their perceived pay satisfaction as well as perceived stress levels and sense of calmness within the gamesʼ task to search for coins. Participants were represented by black dots moving on a virtual playground. Results showed that competition led to reward-maximising but fellow group member disadvantaging behaviour, and all participants experienced lower pay satisfaction, higher stress levels and less calmness. We conclude that short-term behavioural consequences of positive individual competitive behaviour were gained at the above-mentioned potential long-term negative costs for all group members. This implies group paradigms aimed at sustainability should avoid introducing competitive factors that at best result in short-lived gains and at worst cause widespread dissatisfaction, stress and a pervasive lack of calmness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Sponsor: University of Göttingen, Courant Research Centre “Evolution of Social Behaviour”, Germany. Recipients: No recipient indicated