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Amanda L. Snyder, Cay Anderson-Hanley and Paul J. Arciero

Grounded in social facilitation theory, this study compared the impact on exercise intensity of a virtual versus a live competitor, when riding a virtual reality-enhanced stationary bike (“cybercycle”). It was hypothesized that competitiveness would moderate effects. Twenty-three female college students were exposed to three conditions on a cybercycle: solo training, virtual competitor, and live competitor. After training without a competitor (solo condition for familiarization with equipment), participants competed against a virtual avatar or live rider (random order of presentation). A repeated-measures analysis revealed a significant condition (virtual/live) by competitiveness (high/low) interaction for exercise intensity (watts). More competitive participants exhibited significantly greater exercise intensity when competing against a live versus virtual competitor. The implication is that live competitors can have an added social facilitation effect and influence exercise intensity, although competitiveness moderates this effect.

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Deborah L. Feltz, Norbert L. Kerr and Brandon C. Irwin

The present investigation examined the Köhler motivation gain effect in a health game using an absent partner, presented virtually. The Köhler effect occurs when an inferior team member performs a difficult task better in a team or coaction situation than one would expect from knowledge of his or her individual performance. The effect has been strongest in conjunctive task conditions in which the group’s potential productivity is equal to the productivity of its least capable member. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions (individual control, coaction, additive, and conjunctive) in a 4 (conditions) × 2 (gender) factorial design and performed a series of isometric plank exercises within an exercise game. They performed the first series of five exercises alone holding each position for as long as they could, and, after a rest period, those in the partner conditions were told they would do remaining trials with a same-sex virtual partner whom they could observe during their performance. The partner’s performance was manipulated to be always superior to the participant’s. Results showed that task persistence was significantly greater in all experimental conditions than in the individual control condition. The conjunctive condition was no more motivating than either the additive or coactive conditions. Results suggest that working out with virtually present, superior partners can improve persistence motivation on exercise game tasks.