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Performance and learning process factors were determined as a function of different cooperative and individualistic learning techniques. Ninety-six African-American college women completed a 40-item vocabulary test of unfamiliar words and then were randomly assigned to one of four 30-minute word-study conditions. These four conditions were either a cooperative or individualistic study arrangement coupled with a performance-contingent competitive or criterion (i.e. based on an absolute performance standard) incentive. Performance on an alternative form of the vocabulary test, and measures of study attitudes, perceived ability, and time on study task were then assessed. Second test performance was greater following cooperative than individualistic learning. This was principally due to the difference between these conditions when they were paired with competitive incentives. Cooperative learning also led to more positive attitudes towards the learning experience, greater perceived ability, and more time on study task. The generalizability of cooperative learning effects are discussed as is the effectiveness of the approach with African-American students.