The Psychological Effects of a Competitive Environment and Non-Competitive Environment of College-Aged Students Performing Cognitive Tasks
Journal of Advanced Student Sciences (JASS)
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Throughout human history, competition has been a motivator behind many successes and failures. Evolutionarily, competition underlies the theory of natural selection, in which organisms compete for natural resources and those more fit can adapt and reproduce. A similar framework applies to modern society in how starting at a young age students are defined by their performance both academically and non-academically. Academic achievement is weighed heavily, especially in terms of standardized examination scores and acceptances to higher-level educational institutions. The same is true in a non-academic setting for extracurriculars as individuals are required to tryout before being ranked and divided into teams of different levels. Even though studies have shown that competition plays a significant role in increasing student academic performance, to what end is this true? This study assessed the bounds of competition and evaluated the physiological effects of competition on the body’s stress response. Using university level students as the primary participants, the study specifically focused on competition as a motivating or debilitating influence on performance. A T-test was performed to determine if there was a significant difference of percent change between competitive and noncompetitive groups taking account baseline values. An alpha P-value of 0.05 was used. Blood pressure, Electrodermal Activity (EDA), and heart rate P-values were calculated to be greater than the alpha significance level and were therefore not significant. Despite the insignificance of physiological measurements, there was a statistically significant relationship between competitive conditions and exam accuracy. These results suggest that while physiological body responses may not change, competitive testing conditions influence cognitive performance. Further research is necessary to evaluate the physiological responses and cognitive performance with competition on a larger scale.
Electrodermal Activity (EDA)
An article that appeared in JASS, issue 2019