The N-Effect: Beyond Winning Probabilities

8 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2009 Last revised: 5 Jan 2010

See all articles by Avishalom Tor

Avishalom Tor

Notre Dame Law School

Stephen M. Garcia

University of Michigan

Date Written: November 9, 2009


The N-effect reveals that the motivation to compete increases as the number of competitors decreases, controlling for overall expected payoffs (Garcia and Tor, 2009). In their thoughtful commentary, Mukherjee and Hogarth (in press) astutely reason that, given ability differences in the population, the greater sampling error (SE) in small-N settings increases weaker competitors' individual probability of winning, potentially causing a motivation gain on their part. The present commentary explains why SE is an unlikely theoretical account for Garcia and Tor's (2009) N-effect findings and experimentally demonstrates the persistence of the N-effect where an SE effect should not appear.

Keywords: Motivation, Competition, Judgement, Social Comparison

JEL Classification: C70, D70, K21, C91, C93

Suggested Citation

Tor, Avishalom and Garcia, Stephen M., The N-Effect: Beyond Winning Probabilities (November 9, 2009). Psychological Science, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Avishalom Tor (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

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

Stephen M. Garcia

University of Michigan ( email )

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


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