The present review of the problem of incentives to
learning gives some indication of the vast field which
this subject covers, and of the comparatively minute
amount of thorough-going research which has as yet been
undertaken in the field.
The value of a greater understanding of the incentive
problem is clear if the studies made upon the wide discrepancies
which exist between the A.Q. and the I.Q. can
be used as a basis for judgment.
Attention, intention, and attitude appear to be important
factors in the learning process and if these can
be increased and improved upon for good by the use of
wisely administered incentives the case for each end
every type of incentive is strengthened.
The past quarter of a century has witnessed an amazing
growth in the study of the underlying factors which determine
man's behaviour. As these factors become better
understood and classified the problem of relating environmental
stimuli to them in order to obtain desired results
becomes apparent. This relationship tends to present
the incentive problem in a new light, as incentives come
no longer to be considered as isolated factors in human
behaviour but as closely allied elements, or better still
as component parts of the total problem of human motivation.
A review of the present existent theories of motivation show at least several fundamental urges or
drives dominant in man and sensitive to external stimuli. Regardless
of the interpretation given them by the various
schools of psychology, the existence of certain fundamental
motivating factors such as the desire for social
approval, pugnacity etc. are recognized by most to be
powerful determining elements in man's behaviour. The
various types of expression which these inner drives
take are important aspects of the problem of human behaviour.
The better they become understood the more
possibility is given to the hope of directing man's
activity into desired channels.
It has been pointed out in this study that if man's
behaviour is determined by inner drives, urges, or instincts
attempts to stimulate activity must take these
into account and ally the external situation with the
latent innate tendencies which in turn stimulate the
individual into activity. External situations which do
this have been classified as incentives.
An analysis of the problem of incentives reveals
several attributes which may be associated with them.
Foremost among these is this factor made clear in the
definition of incentives as used in this study, of the
close relationship between incentives and the motivating
elements in life. It has been suggested that this may
account for a second rather generally recognized aspect
of the incentive problem, that of the inter-dependence
and inter-relationship. of the various incentives themselves.
It has been pointed out further that before any incentive
can be properly evaluated it must be considered
in lip:ht of the total situation. of which it is a part.
Moreover it must be recognized that the value of an incentive
may differ at different times and in varying
Many incentives are thus far. little understood except
to be vaguely recognized as being possible sources
of stimuli. Others which are more generally recognized
and which lend themselves more readily to research have
been studied to some degree. The fore-going review of
this experimental work reveals a great amount of material
but one is readily struck by the lack of unity and thorough-going character of the research on any single incentive.
Because of this fact an attempt has been made in this
study to confine the experimental investigations to one
type of incentive, namely, competition, and by so doing
attempt to aid in the presentation of a more complete
analysis of the development of the competitive spirit in
children and adults.
Previous studies have revealed that the competitive
impulse probably makes its appearance at the age of three
or four years, usually resulting in a decrease in output
of work until about the age of five when the child
begins to exert positive effort to out-do his fellow-worker and thus increase his efficiency. By the age of
six it is thought that 90. of all children have the
competitive impulse well developed.
The investigations of this study dealt with three
different age groups, namely, 9.5 years, 12 years, and
university age. 'From the results obtained and insofar
as competition was present as an incentive with the type
of problem employed in this study, the following conclusions may be drawn regarding competition as an incentive:
I. With children of 9.5 years of age both group competition
and individual competition of the type employed
in this study are effective in stimulating a greater
amount of learning than results from mere practice. Group
competition, however, has a greater effect than does individual competition.
II. With 12 year old children both types of competition
are also effective but individual competition more so than
III. It appears from the present studies that girls
are slightly more favorably affected both by competition
and by practice than are boys.
IV. Superior subjects among older children tend
to be less favorably affected by group competition
than younger children of superior ability. The latter
appear to be highly stimulated by it. Individual competition.
proved to be more effective with superior children of the older groups than with those of the younger
group. With inferior subjects individual competition
produces a lower percentage of increase than does
either group competition or mere practice. This was
true in all three age groups studied.
V. Contrary to prevalent belief the presence of
competition as an incentive tends to increase rather
than decrease accuracy.
VI. Learning which takes place under the influence
of competition as an incentive has a permanent effect
both after one month and three month intervals. The
percentage of retention is greater in the case of the
older children than of the younger, in the type of learning and under the conditions employed in this study.
There remains much to be done in the way of experimental
research before any adequate summary of the problem of competition as an incentive can be given. Further investigations are needed with adult subjects. The inadequacy
of the present study dealing with adults, and
of those carried on by one or two other investigators
serve to emphasize this need. Other types of learning
need to be tested under the influence of competition;
the relationship between the I.Q. and responses to competition
needs investigation.; and many comparative studies
should be made between the effects of competition and
other incentives. It is hoped that some of these investigations may be undertaken at a later date.
In summary, the competitive impulse, well-developed
at the age of six appears to grow in strength throughout
childhood and at the age of nine expresses itself most
strongly in the form of response to group competition.
At the age of twelve the emphasis appears to have shifted
and individual competition proves to be more stimulating
than group competition, at least in the type of problem
used in this study. Indications suggest that perhaps
as age increases the effect of group competition diminishes,
and other factors enter in which have a strong additional
incentive value. An understanding of what these may be
and their relative strengths awaits further research.