The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition

23 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008 Last revised: 21 Jul 2009

See all articles by Stephen M. Garcia

Stephen M. Garcia

University of Michigan

Avishalom Tor

Notre Dame Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 1, 2009


The present analysis introduces the N-Effect - the discovery that increasing the number of competitors (N) can decrease competitive motivation. Studies 1a-b found evidence that average test scores (e.g., SAT scores) fall as the average number of test-takers at test-taking venues increases. Study 2 found that individuals trying to finish an easy quiz among the top 20 percent in terms of speed finished significantly faster if they believed they were competing in a pool of 10 versus 100 other people. Using a social comparison orientation (SCO) scale, Study 3 showed the N-Effect occurs strongly among those high in SCO and weakly among those low in SCO. Study 4 directly linked the N-Effect to social comparison, ruling out the "ratio-bias" and finding that social comparison becomes less important as N increases. Finally, Study 5 found the N-Effect is mediated by social comparison. Limitations, future directions, and implications are discussed.

Keywords: Social comparison, competition, motivation, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: C7, D2, D7, K2, L2, L4, I2

Suggested Citation

Garcia, Stephen M. and Tor, Avishalom, The N-Effect: More Competitors, Less Competition (July 1, 2009). Psychological Science, Vol. 20, pp. 871-877, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Stephen M. Garcia (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

741 Dennison Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-615-2561 (Phone)


Avishalom Tor

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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