Can Working Out with a Virtually Present, Superior Partner Improve Persistence Motivation on Exercise Game Tasks?

Research Paper Title

Buddy up: the Köhler effect applied to health games.


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 four (conditions) and two (gender) factorial design and performed a series of isometric plank exercises within an exercise game.

The individuals 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.


The results suggest that working out with virtually present, superior partners can improve persistence motivation on exercise game tasks.


Feltz, D.L., Kerr, N.L. & Irwin, B.C. (2011) Buddy up: the Köhler effect applied to health games. Journal of Exercise and Sport Psychology. 33(4), pp.506-526.


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