The greatest battle is within ourselves: An experiment on the effects of competition alone on task performance

Richard N. Landers, Andrew B. Collmus, Hayden Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose of Research: In the gamification literature, the causal effects of multiple game elements are typically confounded, but in this study, we tested the causal effects of the competition game element alone on brainstorming, a classic experimental context for studying human task performance. We furthermore explored intrinsic motivation as a motivational mediator and trait competitiveness as an individual difference moderator of the effect of competition on brainstorming performance. Principal Results: Adding competition to a brainstorming task improved both the creativity (d = 0.371) and quantity (7.72 additional ideas; d = 0.563) of brainstorming in comparison to a control group. Trait competitiveness did not moderate this relationship, such that a person's competitiveness did not change the effectiveness of competition. Intrinsic motivation also did not mediate the relationship between the game element and performance. Major Conclusions: Competition, even implemented as the sole game element in gamification, can improve human performance. This effect in this study did not depend upon a population containing highly competitive performers. Furthermore, we argue that the primary motivational effect of competition must have either occurred via an unconscious influence (i.e., increasing amotivation) or by impliticly creating extrinsic rewards for increased effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
StatePublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Brainstorming
  • Competition
  • Experiment
  • Game element
  • Game science
  • Gamification


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