Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




William R. Dobson


The effects of interpersonal competition on schizophrenics were studied to determine if competition facilitates or impairs task performance of schizophrenics and to further determine if schizophrenics respond to interpersonal competition differently than nonschizophrenics. Forty-one hospitalized patients diagnosed as schizophrenics, 36 hospitalized patients diagnosed as personality disorders, and 36 employees of the Wyoming State Hospital were used as subjects. Each group of subjects was randomly divided into competitive and noncompetitive research groups, thus forming three competitive group s and three noncompetitive groups.

Each of the six groups of subjects was administered two equivalent forms of four standardized tests. Each group was tested under noncompetitive conditions. The subjects comprising the competitive groups took the second form of each test under paired competition conditions, whereas the noncompetitive groups took the second form of each test under the same, noncompetitive conditions which were used during the ad ministration of the First forms of each test. The results for each test were treated by analysis of covariance using a two (competition vs. noncompetition) by three (schizophrenics vs. personality disorders vs. normals) model. The tests used for the study were the Associative Memory Test from the Wechsler Memory Scale, the Number Completion Test from the Babcock-Levy Revised Examination, the Digit Substitution Test from the Babcock-Levy Revised Examination, and the Form Perception Test from the General Aptitude Test Battery.

Statistical treatment of the test scores indicated that competition does not significantly affect the performance of any of the three groups of subjects. The three competitive groups performed better on the Di.git Substitution Test under competitive conditions, but the improvement failed to reach a desirable level of significance (p < .10). The three competitive groups obtained lower scores on the Associative Memory Test than did their controls, but this difference also failed to reach an acceptable level of significance. With ability held constant by means of analysis of covariance, the two nonschizophrenic groups performed significantly better on the Digit Substitution and Associative Memory Tests, The improvement by the competitive groups on the Digit Substitution Test is consistent with previous competition studies which have shown competition to be effective primarily with visual motor tasks requiring speed.

The results of the study are interpreted as supporting previous research using normal subjects which have shown the effects of competition to be highly task specific. The results further indicate that competition affects schizophrenics no differently than nonschizophrenics, nor is there any indication that competition impairs schizophrenic functioning. Previous studies showing impairment of schizophrenic performance under competitive conditions may reflect qualities of the task used in the study rather than reflecting an inability of schizophrenics to de al with competitive conditions. To generalize from these past studies that competition has a general debilitating effect on schizophrenics appears unwarranted when the results of this study and past studies using normals are taken into account.

The effects of competition on schizophrenics might better be understood by assessing long-term competitive conditions on schizophrenic adjustment rather than generalizing from short-term competitive performance on task s since competition has been shown to have task-specific and ungeneralizable effects. This study indicates that the task-specific nature of competition effects holds true for schizophrenics as well as for normals.



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