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The power of competition: the impact of social motivation on learning


WE know that competition is a powerful driving force in physical activities. Competition is what motivates athletes to do better and achieve higher results. Thanks to scientific research, we know that kids aim to do a better job at tests and quizzes when they know there’s a prize waiting for impressive results. However, how does competition influence students’ ability to learn? Is there a correlation between competition and the human learning process?

We did some research and came up with some intriguing findings. In this article, we are going to discuss the influence of social motivation on students’ ability to learn.

Competition drives effort

In recent scientific research, a group of undergraduate students took part in a series of tests to show the impact of competition on long-term memory. The participants went through the testing process in different conditions. This was necessary to assure the validity of the results. The final results showed that there was no significant direct influence of competition on long-term memory. Yet, competitive conditions had a significant influence on students’ efforts to complete tasks.

This means that students placed more effort to achieve higher academic performance. Furthermore, the research results showed no significant difference between male and female students. This means that the influence of competition on our desire to learn more and achieve a higher academic result is not related to gender.

Coping with competition in college

While competition has a positive effect on our desire to win, a series of poor results could lead to a loss of self-confidence. Some students react poorly when their results can’t match those of other students, which can lead to a drop in academic performance. To avoid reduced scores or even failing a class, students often seek help with essay writing tasks online. This helps them focus on more pressing tasks and the high-quality essays they receive, increase their level of confidence.

It’s important to consider competition as a driving force instead of a measure of your worth. If someone scores higher than us at a certain point, that doesn’t mean our effort was worthless.

Some students experience anxiety issues when faced with competition. This can lead to poor results in a competitive environment. It’s known that anxiety harms working memory and recall. If students see their competitors as a threat, they would most probably experience anxiety which would hinder memory.

Is there a cultural influence of a competitive environment?

In many countries, there is a long tradition of keeping a competitive atmosphere in classrooms. In countries like Japan, a competitive learning environment is customary. Students experience a competitive classroom atmosphere from an early age. In the USA, students are not used to competing with others in the classroom, so it’s reasonable to expect a negative reaction from some students.

Therefore, it’s safe to assume that the impact of competition on education also depends on the cultural background. Students used to a competitive learning environment will use competition as a driving force. On the other side, in countries where competition in the classroom is not cultivated from the start, students could experience anxiety. Also, they could show low performance when placed under the pressure of competition.

While quizzes and tests are part of every educational system in the world, these academic activities are not a social motivator to their full extent. Test and quiz results show how we stand against ourselves, it’s up to students individually to choose whether they will compare their scores with how other students in the class performed.

Moreover, in most countries nowadays, tests are often individualised, so students don’t even get the same tests. Therefore, students can’t even compare their test results with the scores of their peers since they answer different questions.


While athletes consider the competitive environment as their natural habitat and the driving force behind their activities, with learning things are not that uniform. There are many ways in which students’ view of the competitive environment differs. Some people thrive in harsh competition, while others block. We saw that there is also a cultural influence, or better said the difference in educative systems that plays a role.

It’s up to teachers to create a competitive classroom environment that would help students feel good and achieve higher results. Still, humans are different and there will always be among us those that react well when faced against a competitor and those that freeze when they are being compared with their peers.