Management And Accounting Web

Johnson, D. W., G. Maruyama, R. Johnson, D. Nelson and L. Skon. 1981. Effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin (89): 47-62.

Summary by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

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These authors reviewed 122 studies on the relative effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts on achievement and productivity. They defined four goal structures as follows:

1. Cooperation,
2. Cooperation with intergroup competition,
3. Interpersonal competition, and
4. Individualistic efforts.

The purpose of the article is to review the 122 research studies using meta-analysis to resolve the controversy over which goal structure is more effective.

Meta-analysis involves combining and integrating the results of independent experiments and includes three methods, the voting method, the effect-size method and the z-score method. These methods are described on page 49.


1. Cooperation and cooperation with intergroup competition appeared to be equally effective in promoting achievement.

2. Cooperation promotes higher achievement than competition. The voting method favored cooperation by 65 to 8 (with 36 no differences). The effect-size of .78 showed that "the average person in the cooperation condition performed .75 SD above the average person in competition" (p. 51).

3. Cooperation with intergroup competition was somewhat superior to interpersonal competition in promoting achievement.

4. Cooperation promotes higher achievement than individualistic efforts by 108 to 6 using the voting method (with 42 no differences). The effect-size of .78 favored cooperation indicating that the average person in the cooperative condition performed approximately .75 SD above the average person working individualistically.

5. Cooperation with intergroup competition promotes higher achievement than individualistic efforts. The voting method favored cooperation with intergroup competition by 20 to 1 (with 10 no differences). The effect-size of .50 favored cooperation with intergroup competition indicating that the average person in this condition performed .50 SD above the average person working individualistically.

6. There were no significant differences between the conditions of competition and individualistic effort in promoting achievement.


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