December 14, 2009, Updated September 24, 2012

A series of three studies carried out by scientists at the University of Haifa and the University of Michigan found that motivation and performance are weakened when individuals are up against a large group of people.

‘The larger the number of examinees, the lower the average grade’ – is one of the findings of the new studies. “It is a well-established fact that subjective factors influence our motivation to compete. Our new studies have shown that objective factors, such as the size of a competing group, also have an effect on motivation,” explains Dr. Avishalom Tor from the University of Haifa’s Faculty of Law.

The series of studies, which Tor carried out along with Dr. Stephen Garcia of the University of Michigan, were designed to examine whether a large number of participants in a competition would affect motivation and the performance of the individual competitor even in cases where the number of competitors does not influence the anticipated value of winning. They found that it most definitely does.

“The results of this study have relevance in almost all areas of life. They shed light on the issue of classroom size, as smaller classes would improve student motivation to ‘compete’ and to strive for better achievements. The findings also affect the workplace: salespersons working in large warehouses, for example, would be lower achievers than those working in small groups,” Tor concludes.


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