Testing the Kohler Effect through Intergroup Competition in Exercise Video Games

Research Paper Title

Intergroup Competition in Exergames: Further Tests of the Köhler Effect.


The researchers examined how competing with a software-generated partner (SGP) against another human/virtual partner team, in an exercise video game (exergame), affects individual motivation as measured by effort.


Participants (n = 90; 49 female; Mage = 19.93 ± 1.48) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions:

  1. Individual control (IC);
  2. Conjunctive partner, no competition (PNC); or
  3. Conjunctive partner, with competition (PWC).

Participants performed the first series of exercises alone. After resting, those in the partnered conditions performed the remaining trials with a same-sex SGP. Those in the PWC condition were told that they and their virtual partner would be competing against another human-virtual partner team.


A significant motivation gain was observed in both partnered conditions compared to control (P < 0.001), but the partnered groups did not differ significantly. However, participants in the PWC condition enjoyed the task significantly (P < 0.05) more than those in the PNC and IC conditions and the PWC participants identified more with the SGP as a teammate than the PNC participants.


Altogether, inter-group competition with an SGP may be an enjoyable way to enhance motivation and performance while exercising.


Moss, T., Feltz, D.L., Kerr, N.L., Smith, A.L., Winn, B. & Spencer, B.D. (2018) Intergroup Competition in Exergames: Further Tests of the Köhler Effect. Games for Health Journal. 7(4), pp.240-245. doi: 10.1089/g4h.2017.0122. Epub 2018 Jun 29.


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