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Question is simple.

Will I be more motivated with one good friend or with a group of the same interested people during group exercise?

Does group size affect our internal motivation? (starting by size of 2 people up to X)

Where are bounds for the worst motivation, average motivation and the best motivation for physical workout? (or we can discuss other activities as well)

My input: I'm just thinking about competition feelings in bigger group of people when my brain is saying something like this: "I have to be better than everyone else."

This question doesn't need to be exclusively bound to the gym workout.

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I feel that there are so many factors that are probably much more influential than the group size. E.g. is your sparring partner better (this might be motivating or demotivation depending on your personality and if you feel you can gain on him or not), equally good (motivating competition among peers) or worse than you (probably demotivating)? Do you feel friendly or competitive? Are you the competitive or the cooperative type? What is your goal (health, attractiveness, spending time with friends)? [contd.] – what Jul 11 '13 at 20:33
[contd.] Do all members of the group stand around the training person (awkward), or do they split up in smaller subgroups (so that effectively large groups never happen and you are practically always in a two to three person group at most). etc. – what Jul 11 '13 at 20:33
If you are interested in any of the other effects, pick up any introductory textbook on social psychology and read the chapers on competition versus cooperation and on group work versus individual work. There are too many findings there for me to sum them up here. – what Jul 11 '13 at 20:47

The Ringelmann effect may be useful to you in this question; he found that "the addition of co-workers in a rope-pulling task leads to a linear decrement in the individual group member's average performance." It has been examined experimentally here, and was found to occur with the addition of second and third group members, but adding members beyond that didn't have a significant effect. There was a second experiment that tried to control for the possibility of intermember coordination, but it found the same thing.

(Of course, this leaves out entirely the possibility of differing group dynamics across groups of the same size but with different members. It also does not speak to individual differences--that some people may do better with a larger group, or with varied activity partners, while others do better with smaller groups or more consistent activity partners.)

Alan G Ingham, George Levinger, James Graves, Vaughn Peckham The Ringelmann effect: Studies of group size and group performance Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 10, Issue 4, July 1974, Pages 371–384

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The problem with bringing up the Ringelmann effect in this context is that it deals not with how group size affects individual performance at an individual task with personal goals, but with a situation where individual performance is lost in community performance at a communal task. (1) Once many people pull on the same rope, it is no longer apparent, who pulls with his full power, and who is a freerider. (2) The individual has no inherent self-interest in the outcome of communal rope pulling (while training in the gym is done for the self). – what Jul 11 '13 at 20:00
Yes, they were dealing with total burden and not any kind of individualized measure. However, I'd disagree that (2) is necessarily true; OP mentioned competitive feelings in the gym, and given the athletics-focused setting of the research, it seems a reasonable inference to assume a certain amount of competitive feeling there as well. – Krysta Jul 11 '13 at 20:19

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