Motivation gain in Major League Baseball: Köhler effect vs. social compensation

Myoungjin Shin * and Yunsik Shim **

(*) Department of Leisure Sports, 346, Joongang-ro, Samcheok-si, Kangwon National University, Gangwon-do, South Korea
(**) Soonshunhyang University, Asan-so, South Corea


Shin, M., Shim, Y. (2022). Motivation gain in Major League Baseball: Köhler effect vs. social compensation. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(2), 163-177. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2022.53.163


The Köhler effect and social compensation are two theories that explain the phenomenon of motivation gain. Both theories explain positive effects of a group, unlike social loafing; however, the causes of motivation gain are different between the two theories. The Kohler effect is the case wherein motivation gain appears in the low performer under the condition that the discrepancy between one’s ability and coworker’s ability were moderate. In contrast, social compensation was induced motivation gain in the high performer. Thus, this study identifies the appropriate theory for real-world sports by finding the phenomenon of motivation gain using HLM analysis. To test the Köhler motivation gain effect and social com- pensation effect, the study uses 12-season major league baseball statistical data (2003-2015) of 7,056 players, which includes 3,288 pitchers and 3,768 batters. The motivation gain for batters and pitchers shows social compensation, rather than the Köhler effect. Thus, a high-performing player improves by experiences from moti- vation gain when he/she chooses a team with high annual salary deviation if dif- ferences in skill are significant.

Keywords: Köhler effect, Motivation gain, Social compensation theory, major league baseball