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Interest in the Task and Interest in Peers' Work in Competitive and Noncompetitive Conditions: A Developmental Study

Ruth Butler
Child Development
Vol. 60, No. 3 (Jun., 1989), pp. 562-570
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130722
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130722
Page Count: 9
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Interest in the Task and Interest in Peers' Work in Competitive and Noncompetitive Conditions: A Developmental Study
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Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that focusing attention on relative performance will promote ego involvement and undermine intrinsic motivation in school-age children but not in preschoolers who do not have a normative conception of ability. Children at ages 4-5, 7-8, and 9-10 made pictures from stickers in either a competitive or a noncompetitive condition. As expected, among fourth graders, competition enhanced interest in peers' work, measured during the manipulation, and reduced subsequent interest in the task during a free-play period 4 days later, relative to the noncompetitive condition. Similar, but weaker, trends were obtained at first grade. Among preschool children, the competitive focus did not affect interest in peers' work and slightly enhanced subsequent intrinsic motivation. The correlation between interest in peers' work and subsequent task interest was negative for older children but positive for preschoolers. The results are discussed in terms of the light they shed on developmental shifts in ego involvement and in the functions of social comparison.

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