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This is the author s final, peer-reviewed manuscript as accepted for publication. The publisher-formatted version may be available through the publisher s web site or your institution s library. been down so long : perpetual vs. intermittent inferiority and the Köhler group motivation gain in exercise groups Norbert L. Kerr, Samuel T. Forlenza, Brandon C. Irwin, Deborah L. Feltz How to cite this manuscript If you make reference to this version of the manuscript, use the following information: Kerr, N. L., Forlenza, S. T., Irwin, B. C., & Feltz, D. L. (2013). been down so long : Perpetual vs. intermittent inferiority and the Köhler group motivation gain in exercise groups. Retrieved from Published Version Information Citation: Kerr, N. L., Forlenza, S. T., Irwin, B. C., & Feltz, D. L. (2013). been down so long : Perpetual vs. intermittent inferiority and the Köhler group motivation gain in exercise groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 17(2), Copyright: 2013 American Psychological Association Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi: /a Publisher s Link: This item was retrieved from the K-State Research Exchange (K-REx), the institutional repository of Kansas State University. K-REx is available at been down so long : Perpetual vs. Intermittent Inferiority and the Köhler Group Motivation Gain in Exercise Groups Norbert L. Kerr Michigan State University and University of Kent Samuel T. Forlenza Michigan State University Brandon C. Irwin Kansas State University Deborah L. Feltz Michigan State University Date: 11/15//2012 (PREPUBLICATION DRAFT. DO NOT CITE WITHOUT PERMISSION) Word count: 8499 Author Note: Support for this research was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation s Pioneer Portfolio through a grant from its national program, Health Games Research: Advancing Effectiveness of Interactive Games for Health. Portions of this paper were presented at the 2012 INGRoup Conference, Chicago, IL. Correspondence should be addressed to Norbert L. Kerr, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI Fax: (517) been down so long Page 2 ABSTRACT Prior research has documented the Köhler motivation gain effect-- working with a more capable partner at a task that makes one s performance indispensible for the group can boost task motivation. Recent research has shown that the Köhler effect can boost one s persistence exercising in groups, but that always being the group s weak link can eventually undermine these motivation gains. An experiment is reported which contrasts having a partner that is more capable on all/both exercise tasks with one that is more capable on the focal task, but inferior on the second task. The Köhler effect on the focal task was replicated and unmoderated by the uniformity of the partner s exercise superiority. Implications for further research and application are discussed. been down so long : Perpetual vs. Intermittent Inferiority and the Köhler Group Motivation Gain in Exercise Groups been down so long Page 3 Most people recognize the value of exercise and many try to initiate an exercise program. However, it is notoriously hard to persist in keeping such good resolutions e.g., research has typically reported about a 50% drop out rate within the first 6 months of initiating an exercise program (Dishman, 1994). Thus, a key question in any attempt to improve fitness is, how can motivation to exercise be enhanced? The present paper reports research that combines two promising approaches to answering this question 1) the use of exercise video games, or exergames (e.g., Wii Fit, PlayStation 2 EyeToy: Kinetic) and 2) the application of social psychological principles that have been shown to enhance member motivation in work groups. Clearly, video games have captured the attention of many people, particularly young people. For example, Gentile (2009) reports that 8-18 year olds in the U.S. spend about hours per week, on average, playing video games. Such high levels of game play has raised a number of concerns (e.g., about the effects of graphic and violent video games, e.g., Anderson et al., 2010). One such concern is that video game play is typically very sedentary. But if engaging video games could be designed to require vigourous activity, such play could make a significant contribution to fitness. There are a number of obvious advantages to such games over alternative means of exercising they can be played in the home at one s convenience, help avoid social physique anxiety, and provide timely performance feedback, etc. In the last decade, a number of such games have been designed (Staiano & Calvert, 2011). Although initial research efforts into the effectiveness of such games is encouraging (e.g., Maddison et al., 2007; Porcari, Schmidt, & Foster, 2008), as of yet there is rather little research exploring whether and when such games can succeed in boosting motivation to exercise. Moreover, practically none of the extant exergames incorporate social psychological principles which have been shown to boost motivation in group task settings. been down so long Page 4 Group Dynamics and Motivation to Exercise Researchers have consistently found group exercise leads to higher exercise adherence than individual exercise programs (Burke, Carron, Eys, Ntoumanis, & Estabrooks, 2006; Dishman & Buckworth, 1996). Specifically, group exercise programs provide opportunities for comparison with others and are related to higher enjoyment and levels of social support, as well as increased intention to continue exercising. However, prior studies of group exercise rarely (if ever) introduce any real interdependence between exercisers (e.g., create teams whose progress and/or outcomes are mutually determined). A large and growing body of basic research on motivation in task groups (e.g., see Baron & Kerr, 2003; Karau & Williams, 1993) has demonstrated that certain patterns of interdependence can lead to group motivation gains (i.e., instances in which group members exert greater effort at a task than they would were they working individually). One particularly well-studied motivation gain phenomenon is the Köhler effect. The Köhler effect occurs when low ability group members increase their motivation 1) due to an invidious social comparison with their more capable group members and 2) when low ability group members see their contributions as particularly indispensible for group success and social evaluation (Kerr et al., 2007). Many factors that moderate this effect have also been identified (e.g., group sex composition, Lount et al., 2000; how long the group has worked together; Lount et al., 2008). Most importantly, the demands of the group task can be crucial; group tasks that make the least capable member s performance critical for group success (e.g., a mountain climbing team tethered together and able to climb at the speed of the slowest climber--what Steiner, 1972, called a conjunctive group task) generally results in the strongest Köhler effect (Hertel et al., 2008; Kerr et al., 2007) See Weber and Hertel (2007) for a meta-analytic or Kerr and Hertel (2011) for a narrative review of this literature. The utility of the Köhler effect for enhancing motivation to exercise has been demonstrated in a series of recent studies from our lab. In the first (Feltz, Kerr, & Irwin, 2011) we found that exercising with a virtually-present, more capable partner led to a 24% improvement in persistence at a series of isometric plank exercises, relative to exercising alone. In the second (Irwin et al., in press), we found been down so long Page 5 that exercising with a virtually-present, more capable partner at a conjunctive team exercise task (i.e., when it was the first person to quit who defined the team s overall performance) led to a remarkable 125% improvement in persistence at an aerobic exercise task (viz., riding a stationary bike), again relative to exercising alone. In the third (Feltz, Irwin, & Kerr, 2012), we replicated the basic effect in a conjunctive version of the isometric exercise task (overall, an increase in persistence of 48%, relative to individual exercise). It seems clear that the Köhler effect can be effective in boosting motivation to exercise of the less fit member of an exercise group. How less fit? The question we consider in this paper is, what s the optimal inferiority of the less fit member for producing the Köhler motivation gain? At least one answer to this question has already been well documented the Köhler motivation gain is maximal when the discrepancy in ability between the less and more capable group members is moderate in size (i.e., the ratio of the stronger s performance to the weaker s is ~1.4; cf. Messé et al., 2002; Köhler, 1926, 1927). In Köhler s original studies (Köhler, 1926, 1927), more recent lab research (e.g., Messé et al., 2002), and in our own recent exercise research (Feltz et al., 2012), results have shown that the relationship between discrepancy in teammates abilities and the gain in motivation showed by the weaker member is a curvilnear one. For purposes of illustration, Messé et al. s results are plotted in Figure 1, in both an experiment in which dyads were randomly composed and the discrepancy in ability could take on any value (Figure 1a) and another in which this discrepancy was experimentally manipulated (Figure 1b). An explanation for this inverted-u function has been provided by Kerr, Seok, & Messé (2007). They manipulated both the discrepancy in ability (as in Messé et al. s, 2002, Exp. 2) and the interdependence between the co-workers. In one condition (Additive), the two workers could observe one another s performance (at a taxing arm-lifting task), and the group s score was the simple sum of member scores. This condition permits social comparison, but neither member s contributions were particularly indispensable for the other s outcomes. In the other condition (Conjunctive), not only could the two workers observe one another, but they worked as a team been down so long Page 6 under conjunctive task demands (i.e., the group s score would be defined by the member who quit the arm-lifting task first). In this condition, both of the processes that can contribute to the Köhler effect (i.e., invidious social comparison; feeling indispensible to the group) could operate fully. Kerr et al. s (2007) results are presented in Figure 2. The inverted-u function is evident in both conditions, but motivation (here, Block 2 - Block 1 task persistence, where Block 1 is a performance baseline collected before experimental manipulations) is also significantly higher in the conjunctive than the additive condition. From these results, Kerr et al. (2007) concluded that partner discrepancy did not moderate the indispensibility mechanism (i.e., regardless of how much better my partner is than me, if I m the group s weak link, I realize that my performance is crucial for the group s outcome under conjunctive task demands), but that it did moderate the social comparison mechanism. As Festinger (1954) suggested in the original statement of social comparison theory, in the realm of abilities, one is less likely to compare with someone of about the same ability (low discrepancy) than with someone of somewhat higher ability (moderate discrepancy); the former is not particularly informative, but the latter can present a real challenge. But in addition, as has been noted in much goal-setting research (e.g., Locke, 2001), a goal (e.g., matching one s partner s performance) has to be seen as achievable to be motivating, and if one s partner is too much more capable (high discrepancy), one may simply stop comparing oneself to that partner (i.e., give up). Another route to the belief that it is impossible to compare favorably with one s partner is consistent failure to match or exceed a partner s performance. Lount et al. (2008) found that working with a single partner who was repeatedly more capable at a conjunctive group task led to smaller motivation gains than working with a series of different partners who all were, likewise, repeatedly more capable. They suggested that people are less likely to become resigned to the role of the perpetually inferior group member in the latter case with each new partner comes the possibility that one could compare more favorably. So, one way in which to maintain a robust Köhler motivation gain across repeated exercise sessions might be to introduce new partners across sessions. But this may be less been down so long Page 7 practical in a team exercise setting than having a partner who is more capable than the player on some exercises, but less capable on others. As in the new-partner condition of the Lount et al. (2008) study, this avoids putting a player in the discouraging role of the perpetually inferior group member. In the present experiment, we address the question, will the duration of exercise be greater when one is for at least some exercises not his/her exercise team s weak link, compared to when s/he is the weak link for all exercises? If the answer is yes, this would prescribe that exergames use a variety of exercises (already a good idea for approximating a full-body workout), but also that for some of these exercises, the game player is more capable than his/her teammate. This could be achieved by careful matching of teammates and exercise tasks, or more easily in games with genuinely virtual teammates, by simply having that virtual teammate be less capable than the player for some of the game s exercises. Overview of the Experiment Participants performed four blocks of exercise trials, with two exercises per block. The two exercises were 1) an isometric plank exercise (the participant held a position much like a push-up, face down on a cushioned mat, with legs extended straight, and the body lifted upward by resting the forearms and toes on the mat; the body, spine, and legs were in a straight line and nothing was touching the ground except for the forearms and toes) and 2) a wall-sit exercise (squatting into a sitting position with one s back against a wall). The participants goal was to hold each exercise for as long as possible. The first block provided a baseline measure which was used to control for individual differences in task ability and task motivation. In individual-control conditions, participants worked individually at each of the four trials. This condition provided an estimate of fatigue and boredom effects across Blocks 2-4. In the remaining experimental conditions, participants were introduced to a same-sex teammate after the first block and told that they would be working as a two-person team on all subsequent blocks. Further, the dyad s task demands were conjunctive the trial ended as soon as one dyad member quit and the time that member persisted served as the group s score on that trial. been down so long Page 8 The primary experimental manipulation consisted of feedback indicating either that the participant s teammate was moderately more capable at both of the exercises (S-always-inferior conditions), or that the teammate was moderately more capable at only one of the two exercises (Ssometimes-superior conditions). Half of the latter conditions had the teammate inferior on the plank exercise; for the other half, the teammate was inferior on the wall-sit exercise. Much prior research suggests that participants will persist longer in the S-always-inferior condition than in the individualcontrol condition that is, that there will be a significant Köhler motivation gain. The results of Lount et al. s (2008) study, with a roughly comparable design, suggest that the magnitude of this effect will attenuate across trials (one tends to become discouraged and give up on keeping up with a consistently superior partner). The interesting and open research question is whether this effect will be stronger and persist longer when the participant is not always inferior to his/her partner. Method Design and Participants Participants were 114 undergraduate students who completed the experiment in return for course credit. Seven participants who expressed suspicion about whether their partner was genuine were dropped from the analyses, so the final sample consisted of 107 participants (52 males, 55 females; M Age = 19.2 years, SD = 1.18). Within each gender, participants were randomly assigned to one of eight conditions (1: individual-control, plank exercise first; 2: individual-control, wall-sit exercise first; 3: partner superior on both exercises, plank first; 4: partner superior on both exercises, wall-sit first; 5: partner superior only on plank exercise, plank first; 6: partner superior only on plank exercise, wall-sit first; 7: partner superior only on wall-sit exercise, plank first; and 8: partner superior only on wall-sit exercise, wall-sit first). For purposes of description, one could frame the design as a 2 (Gender) x 4 (Condition: Individual-control, S-always-inferior, S-superior on plank, S-superior on wall-sit) x 2 (Exercise order: Plank first, Wall-sit first) x 4 (Block) x 2 (Exercise: Plank, Wall-sit) factorial with been down so long Page 9 repeated measures on the last two factors. However, the comparisons of interest will focus on subsets of these conditions. Procedure Participants arrived individually. After signing an informed consent, both exercises were demonstrated. The plank exercise was demonstrated first with the use of the EyeToy: Kinetic game on the PlayStation 2. EyeToy: Kinetic is an exercise video game that allows the player to perform various types of physical activity (e.g., yoga, cardio exercises, combative exercises) with the assistance of a virtual trainer. Included with the EyeToy: Kinetic game is a video camera that projects the player s image onto the television screen, which allows the player to interact with the virtual environments the game creates. The wall-sit exercise was demonstrated second by one of the experimenters on a prerecorded video because the EyeToy: Kinetic game did not have the wall-sit exercise programmed into it. All participants then individually completed the two exercises with a short (40s) rest between exercises; this constituted the first block of exercises (Block 1). Roughly half of all participants did the plank exercise first (on this and all succeeding blocks); the remainder did the wall-sit first. After a rest period, participants in the individual-control conditions were told how long they held each exercise and that they would be repeating the same block of exercises three more times individually. After Block 1, participants in the remaining experimental conditions were told they would be repeating the exercises with a same-sex partner who was connected to the lab through the internet. As in the Feltz et al. (2011) study, the participants were introduced to their virtual partner over a Skype-like connection. The partner was presented as a similar-aged college student dressed in workout clothes and with average height, weight, and build. Although participants thought they were interacting with a live person, in reality, their partner was a confederate whose Skype and exercise performance videos were both pre-recorded. While exercising during the remaining trials, participants could see their teammate s image on a screen alongside their own image and were told their partner could likewise see their image on a screen. been down so long Page 10 After the Skype introduction, participants were told accurately how long they had actually held each exercise and given false feedback about how long their partner had held each exercise during the first block. The purported length of time their partner held the exercises depended on which condition the participant was in. As noted above, previous research has established that the Köhler motivation gain is maximal when one s partner is moderately more capable (e.g., Feltz et al., 201
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