NYU Stern

Group Motivational Gains and Cognitive Tasks:
An Extension of the Kohler Effect


O. Köhler (1926, 1927) found that less capable performers exerted more effort working in a group compared to when working alone. Current approaches to the study of motivational gains in groups have focused on physical task domains. The present research examined the applicability of the Köhler effect in groups working on a cognitive task. Results of two studies involving an anagram task revealed that compared to when working alone, low-performing individuals increased their cognitive effort and performance when working with a partner who possessed higher levels of anagram problem-solving ability. The potential implications and limitations associated with applying the Köhler effect to organizational settings are discussed.