Margarete Boos, Xaver Franiel and Michael Belz

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

Behavioural Processes

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