Buddy Up: The Köhler Effect Applied to Health Games - PDF

Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2011, 33, Human Kinetics, Inc. Buddy Up: The Köhler Effect Applied to Health Games Deborah L. Feltz, Norbert L. Kerr, and Brandon C. Irwin Michigan

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Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2011, 33, Human Kinetics, Inc. Buddy Up: The Köhler Effect Applied to Health Games Deborah L. Feltz, Norbert L. Kerr, and Brandon C. Irwin Michigan State University The present investigation examined the Köhler motivation gain effect in a health game using an absent partner, presented virtually. The Köhler effect occurs when an inferior team member performs a difficult task better in a team or coaction situation than one would expect from knowledge of his or her individual performance. The effect has been strongest in conjunctive task conditions in which the group s potential productivity is equal to the productivity of its least capable member. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions (individual control, coaction, additive, and conjunctive) in a 4 (conditions) 2 (gender) factorial design and performed a series of isometric plank exercises within an exercise game. They performed the first series of five exercises alone holding each position for as long as they could, and, after a rest period, those in the partner conditions were told they would do remaining trials with a same-sex virtual partner whom they could observe during their performance. The partner s performance was manipulated to be always superior to the participant s. Results showed that task persistence was significantly greater in all experimental conditions than in the individual control condition. The conjunctive condition was no more motivating than either the additive or coactive conditions. Results suggest that working out with virtually present, superior partners can improve persistence motivation on exercise game tasks. Keywords: conjunctive task, dyad exercise, exergame, persistence motivation, virtual partner The present research was designed to determine whether recently documented motivation gains in task groups (dyads in particular) could be harnessed to improve people s motivation in health video games using a virtually presented partner. If people s motivation can be improved under such conditions, increasing the intensity and duration of exercise by participating with such a partner, they will realize better health outcomes than if they exercise alone. There are a number of social and psychological factors that influence motivation to exercise (Franzini et al., 2009; USDHHS, 2008). These include social support from health professionals, family, and friends (Coleman, Cox, & Roker, Deborah L. Feltz is with the Department of Kinesiology, Norbert L. Kerr is with the Department of Psychology, and Brandon Irwin is with the Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. 506 Köhler Effect and Health Games ; Zakarian, Hovell, Hofstetter, Sallis, & Keating, 1994), social modeling of physical activity (Feltz & Riessinger, 1990; Fox, Rejeski, & Gauvin, 2000), coexercisers (Carron, Hausenblas, & Mack, 1996), group exercise programs (Dishman & Buckworth, 1996), and access to and convenience of exercise facilities (Sallis et al., 1990). In addition, enjoyment of physical activity and self-efficacy for overcoming exercise barriers have consistently been linked to exercise adherence (McArthur & Raedeke, 2009; McAuley, 1993; Sallis, Prochaska, Taylor, Hill, & Geraci, 1999). Research also suggests that some social environments are more appropriate for fostering motivation and quality exercise experiences. For example, researchers have consistently found group exercise leads to higher exercise adherence than individual exercise programs (Dishman & Buckworth, 1996). Specifically, group exercise programs are related to higher enjoyment and levels of social support as well as increased intention to continue exercising. On the other hand, structured group exercise programs present special problems for those with social physique anxiety (Bain, Wilson, & Chaikind, 1989) or those who lack the time and/or resources to join an exercise group. Moreover, previous models of group exercise rarely if ever introduce any real interdependence between exercisers (e.g., create teams whose progress and or outcomes are mutually determined). However, there is now considerable basic research on motivation gains in task groups showing that under the right conditions, effort at demanding physical tasks (e.g., exercise) can be boosted via a number of social psychological processes that focus on social comparison, competition, and obligation. One well-studied motivation gain phenomenon that has promise for motivating greater effort in exercise is the Köhler effect (Hertel, Kerr & Messé, 2000; Köhler, 1927; Messé, Hertel, Kerr, Lount, & Park, 2002). The Köhler effect was first described in the 1920s by the German industrial psychologist Otto Köhler. Studying male members of a Berlin rowing club, Köhler found that dyads could perform a taxing physical task (viz., doing as many standing bicep curls as possible) longer than one would expect from knowledge of the dyad members performances at a comparably difficult individual version of the task. The demands of Köhler s dyad task meant that the group could persist no longer than its weaker member; once that weaker member was exhausted and quit, it was impossible for the stronger member to continue. Such group tasks in which the group s potential productivity is equal to the productivity of its least capable member are commonly referred to as conjunctive tasks (Steiner, 1972). So, essentially Köhler demonstrated that the weaker member of a dyad will push him- or herself harder beyond their usual performance limits when paired with someone stronger in a conjunctive persistence task. Köhler also found that this motivation gain was moderated by the discrepancy between dyad partners abilities the motivation gain was largest when this discrepancy was moderate (in Köhler s studies, the maximum gain occurred when one partner was able to persist individually about 1.4 times longer than the other). Recent research (e.g., Kerr et al., 2007) reveals that there are at least two mechanisms underlying the Köhler effect. The first stresses social comparison processes (Festinger, 1954; Seta, 1982; Stroebe, Diehl, & Abakoumkin, 1996; Suls & Wheeler, 2000). When confronted with a more capable partner on an ambiguous but valued task, the weaker partner may revise his or her personal performance goal upward. A variant on this notion suggests that doing as well or better than 508 Feltz, Kerr, and Irwin the partner successful competition becomes a salient goal. Although there are interesting differences between the former, goal-setting version and the latter, intragroup-competition version, both versions hold that the opportunity for comparison of performance levels is crucial to produce a gain in motivation. Such opportunities can arise even when performers are not actually working together as a group (e.g., when they are coacting, that is, when two people exercise in one another s presence). Hence, this explanation holds that working together in an interdependent group is not essential for a Köhler motivation gain. The second mechanism stresses the indispensability of one s efforts for one s group. As Instrumentality Value models of motivation suggest (e.g., Vroom, 1964; Karau & Williams, 1993), task motivation is likely to be enhanced when one sees one s efforts as being highly instrumental in achieving highly valued outcomes. Under conjunctive task conditions, the group s performance (and other performance-mediated outcomes, such as one s reputation in the group) is highly contingent on the weaker member s effort; that is, the weaker member s efforts are indispensable for group success. Note that such contingencies depend largely on the demands of the task it is the conjunctive nature of the group task that makes the weaker member s efforts particularly indispensable. The Köhler effect was first observed in the training room of amateur athletes (rowers). More recently, it has been studied in ad hoc laboratory groups for a variety of motor and cognitive tasks. A series of experiments (see Kerr et al., 2007), as well as a meta-analysis (Weber & Hertel, 2007), have shown that the gain attributable to the indispensability mechanism estimable from the difference in motivation observed under coactive vs. conjunctive task conditions tends to be relatively larger for females than for males. At least in the laboratory, it appears that successful social comparison or competition is a relatively more important contributor to the Köhler effect for males, whereas concerns about not letting one s partner or the group down is relatively more important among females than males. Although working coactively or conjunctively with a partner in ad hoc laboratory groups has shown motivational gains for the least capable member of the team, there are some practical obstacles to implementing the principles in exercise settings. For instance, trying to find the optimally matched partner can be difficult, individuals can become discouraged if they believe they can never keep up with their partner, or on the other hand, become bored if their partner is always slower. However, the use of a virtually present partner has the benefit of being more practical than trying to find the best matching live partner, of being helpful to those with social physique anxiety, and in being easier to adapt to changing performance improvements of the matched partner. None of the extant health games (e.g., Wii Fit, XaviX J-Pad, PS-2 s EyeToy: Kinetic) use virtual partners that take much advantage of the potential of group dynamics to motivate participation or incorporate the critical design features suggested by previous research and theory on the Köhler effect (viz., immediate feedback on performance of one or more other players, the ability to control the discrepancy in abilities of players, and the indispensability of individual player effort for determining group outcomes). And, although health video games have shown some health benefit in terms of increased caloric expenditure and cardiorespiratory endurance (e.g., Porcari, Schmidt, & Foster, 2008), the interpersonal and social concerns (for comparing favorably with others, or for not letting a Köhler Effect and Health Games 509 partner or teammates down) that can be incorporated into these games have the potential to add equally powerful new sources of motivation. Thus, our investigation sought to determine how the intensity and duration of exercise during participation in a health game with a virtual partner can be enhanced by harnessing social psychological mechanisms discovered in group dynamics research (e.g., Kerr et al., 2007; Köhler, 1927; Weber & Hertel, 2007). Participating in exercises in this collaborative way could also enhance participants enjoyment and interest in continuing the game, self-efficacy, and intention to exercise in the future. Because these three variables have been associated with exercise adherence (e.g., McArthur & Raedeke, 2009; McAuley, 1993), we were also interested in the game s effect on them. Based solely upon the overall patterns observed in previous laboratory research employing effort-sensitive physical and cognitive tasks, we advance the following tentative hypotheses: H1a: The duration of exercise will be greater with a moderately more capable coacting partner than when exercising alone (due to the social comparison mechanism), and greater still with a moderately more capable teammate exercising under conjunctive team task demands (due to the indispensability mechanism). That is, individuals coaction condition conjunctive condition. H2a: The motivation gain observed (i.e., duration of exercise) under coaction conditions in health games will be larger for males than for females, coactiveindividuals males coactive-individuals females, whereas the additional motivation gain observed under conjunctive conditions will be larger for females than for males, conjunctive-coactive males conjunctive-coactive females. However, aspects of the group exercise setting might qualify these hypotheses. For example, it has been shown (Kerr et al., 2007, Exp. 3) that priming competitiveness leads females to act more like males, that is, to show less of an indispensability component for the Köhler effect. Video games, including exercise games, often include playing with a partner, and the partners compete with each other. To the extent that exercising with others in a video-game context strongly primes competition, we might observe similar effects in our health-game context. This would result in a different, alternative pattern of results, as follows: H1b: The duration of exercise will be greater with a moderately more capable coacting partner than when exercising alone (due to the social comparison mechanism), but no greater with a moderately more capable teammate exercising under conjunctive team task demands. That is, individuals coaction condition = conjunctive condition. H2b: Males and females will show the same pattern of motivation gain effects under coactive and conjunctive task conditions. Finally, results are somewhat mixed about how hard group members work when the task demands are additive (i.e., the group score is just the sum of individual member contributions). Some studies (e.g., Hertel, Deter, & Konradt, 2003; Hertel, Kerr, Scheffler, et al., 2000, Exp. 2; Hertel, Kerr, & Messé, 2000, Exp. 2) find no significant motivation gain under additive conditions, even when social comparison between group members is possible. Weber and Hertel s (2007) 510 Feltz, Kerr, and Irwin meta-analysis, by contrast, finds a comparable motivation gain under additive and coactive work conditions. Given this ambiguity and the fact that ours is the first study looking at the Köhler effect in exercise groups, we approached the contrast of additive and coactive work conditions as an interesting but open research question. Participants Method Although the population of people who might benefit from this motivation-gain approach to health games is potentially quite large including children and younger and older adults who want or need to improve their fitness and health by playing health games in this initial phase of our research, we focused our attention on healthy young adults (college students). Thus, participants were 181 college students (M age = 20.10, SD = 1.75) recruited from introductory psychology and kinesiology courses at a large Midwestern university. Students were given course credit for their participation. Both male and female experimenters conducted sessions throughout the experiment. Design The experiment used a 4 (work condition: individual control, coactive, additive, conjunctive) 2 (gender) 2 (block: first vs. second) design with repeated measures on the last factor. Within each trial block, participants performed five isometric exercises: front plank, side plank (left), one leg plank (left), side plank (right), one leg plank (right) (see below for details). One participant took part in each session that lasted about 1 hr. Within each gender, participants were randomly assigned into one of the four work conditions (with a proviso that fewer participants were run in the exploratory additive condition, to concentrate statistical power in those conditions of primary interest). As a result, there were 49 in the individual condition (24 males, 25 females), 56 in the coactive condition (25 males, 31 females), 28 in the additive condition (13 males, 15 females), and 48 in the conjunctive condition (25 males, 23 females). The primary dependent variable was persistence in the exercises, indexed by the total time the exercises were held across the trial. Health Game and Task The health game used for this study was an exercise video game (exergame) designed for the Playstation 2 (PS2) gaming module. The software used was EyeToy: Kinetic, a game that offers a variety of fitness activities (e.g., yoga, strengthening exercises, combat exercises). This particular software operates in conjunction with an additional accessory called the Eye Toy, designed specifically for the PS2 system. The Eye Toy is essentially a small camera that connects to the PS2 system via a USB cable and allows images of the user to be displayed on the TV monitor and interact with virtual environments supported by the software. The abdominal plank exercises within the strength training module of the EyeToy: Kinetic software were used for this experiment. These are a type of bodyweight exercise where participants are required to suspend their own body weight Köhler Effect and Health Games 511 using their abdominal muscles. These exercises are also isometric in nature and require very little coordination, and thus are highly effort based. Each exercise targeted the abdominal muscles, but there were slight differences between each. On the first exercise, participants were face down on a cushioned mat, with legs extended straight, and lifted their body upward by resting their elbows and toes on the mat and using their abdominals to lift their body. In this way, the body was in a straight line, the spine was directly in line with their head and legs and nothing was touching the ground except for the elbows, forearms, and toes. In a similar fashion, the second exercise achieved the same elevated position, but the participant was on the left side with only the left forearm and left foot on the ground, emphasizing the use of the outer abdominal muscles. The third exercise was the same as the first exercise except that the participant had the left leg raised in the air and thus was balancing on only the right foot, which emphasized the lower abdominal region. The fourth exercise was the same as the second, except the participant performed this on the right side. The fifth exercise was the same as the third, except the participant performed this with the right foot in the air (see Figure 1). Participants performed each exercise once within each of two blocks. Measures Performance. Performance was the total number of seconds that the exercise was held. Block scores were calculated by taking the summed total of the five exercises within each trial, justified by a high intraclass correlation coefficient for each trial (Trial 1 =.83, Trial 2 =.85). Heart Rate. Although the plank exercises were isometric in nature, the heart rate (HR) should still increase the longer one persists at the task. We used HR to provide a physiological measure of participants levels of exertion across conditions. The HR measure also allowed a comparison with subjective ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) for participants across conditions. HR was measured using a Polar E600 heart rate monitor. The monitor operates by recording electrical signals produced by the heart with each beat. In this manner, HR was sampled and summarized in 5-s epochs. Heart rate was measured during exercise (i.e., not during rest periods between exercises and between blocks). 1 Overall HR scores for each trial were calculated by averaging HR scores from each exercise within each trial. Self-Efficacy. Task self-efficacy (SE) was measured with a scale developed specifically for this study. The measures contained five items, each corresponding to one of the five exercises within each trial. All items were preceded by the stem What is the number of seconds that you are completely confident you can hold: followed by The first exercise, the second exercise and so on for each of the five exercises. Respondents wrote in the number of seconds in a blank box following each item. The questionnaire was administered at three time points. Once before Trial 1 (after the participant had watched a brief instructional video demonstrating the exercises), a second time after performing the exercises for Trial 1, and again after the second trial of exercises. A total SE score for each trial was calculated by taking the sum
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