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Social Loafing and Social Facilitation

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This experiment was conducted to determine whether individuals perform better working alone or in a group. The study was to see whether social loafing or social facilitation; two major research topics amongst social psychologists, occurs in certain situations, and the effects on a persons? ability to learn and perform. Through careful research and experimentation it was concluded that social facilitation supported the hypothesis, and social loafing did not.

The Effects of Social Loafing and Social Facilitation in Certain Situations A widespread topic among social psychologists is the influence of groups on individual behaviour. A common question most researchers ask is whether working in a group affects the performance of the individuals. Most researchers can?t answer that question, because it all depends on the individual himself, and the situation they are in. Based on that question, researchers identified two well-known theories: social loafing and social facilitation.

Social loafing and social facilitation affect people in different ways. Whether it?s their learning abilities or how they perform, some situations will result in different outcomes for certain individuals. In specific situations, whether it is being watched by others, being timed, working in a group or alone everyone acts a certain way.

Social loafing occurs when a person working in a group doesn?t perform to the best of their ability and contributes less ideas and effort then the others working in that group. (Gagne & Zuckerman, 1999 p. 525) A common reason as to why a person would do this is because they think the group will not be marked individually, therefore putting less effort in the group because he knows he will get the same mark as the rest of the other members.

Social facilitation occurs when people put fourth more effort while working in a group then being on their own. (Gagne et al. 1999 p. 525) A general motive for this is usually because of the stimulation one receives from the company of others, as well as assessment anxiety.

Some people consider that the presence of others increases performance of well-known, well-learned concepts but slows down problem solving responses. (Gagne et al. 1999) With other people around, many individuals feel more confident on tasks they have performed before and perfected their skills on. They feel less anxiety on a task that they feel comfortable performing then one they are not. If a task is new and has never been seen before, many people feel more nervous because they are unsure of the outcome, and haven?t grasped the concepts compared to a task they have practiced before.

Furthermore, people are only going to work hard in a group if they believe that it is important to finish the task or perform the task correctly and if the end result will assist them in some way. (Hart et al. 1998 p.186) Individuals who perform tasks that are unattractive, or have no personal involvement are more likely to loaf and put forth as little effort as possible.

Most often, fatigue can play a role in social loafing because individuals express fewer ideas and less effort when they are tired. The longer people work on the task and the more tired they get, the more their performance tends to worsen. If the individual is tired, he will put more work on the other people and less on himself because he does not have the energy to come up with the ideas himself. Overall, performing as well as one can will only occur if individuals are fully functioning, causing fewer opportunities for social loafing to occur. (Hoeksema-van Orden, Buunk & Gaillard, 1998) Being evaluated during the completion of a task causes an increase in anxiety, resulting in an overall rise in most individual?s performances. People who feel they are being evaluated feel more pressure to do well in a shorter amount of time. (Gagne & Zuckerman 1999) Although most people get a positive result with pressure (enhancing their performance), this can also have a negative effect on some people (they may be too nervous to perform).

The influence that occurs while working with others is very oblivious to most people. The individuals can be affected by their own condition of being tired or awake, and can also be influenced by other members in the group because they don?t put forth any effort or they take over the project and do it themselves. Ultimately, group work generally doesn?t end up working out as well as many think. (Buunk et al. p.1184, 1998) Although many more ideas and thoughts are brought together, there is always a possibility of social loafing, and even sabotage.

Despite the positive and negative results, the presence of others always affects individuals? behavior in some way. (Gagne & Zuckerman, 1999) In group settings, social loafing and social facilitation is hard to avoid. By taking into consideration the individual himself, one can avoid it by staying focused, being awake and alert, and always thinking of new ideas and interacting in the group.

It is hypothesized that individuals work better in a group. This is because more ideas, thoughts and opinions come forward and more brainstorming can occur amongst the group members. This allows for expansion on points of view and allows for clarification on things that are unclear. It is further hypothesized that individuals work better alone. This is because the person is working individually and can organize the project their way, on their own time without the pressures of other people. Also, by working alone it does not allow for others to slack off and take the mark that the individual worked hard on.

Method Procedure This study was carried out by researchers splitting the participants into groups of two. The second group was told to go outside of the classroom and wait quietly while the others (group one) were told to stay in the room and received instructions.

The first group?s instructions were that only their individual score would matter, not their group score. They were also told to perform the task as quickly as possible, and the first person to finish would receive a prize. The second group?s instructions were that only their group score would matter, not their individual score.

Until seated quietly with the sheet of paper in front of them, the participants were not told exactly what the experiment would entail.

The materials included a pen or pencil, a stop watch and a piece of paper that had a typed paragraph on it. The participants were told to cross off only the vowels on the sheet, and to time it.

Once instructed to do so, the participants turned over their sheets and began to cross out the vowels on their sheets.

Participants There were a total of seventeen students (two males, fifteen females) involved in this study. The ages ranged from seventeen to twenty-one years old. Therefore the average age was eighteen.

As stated above, the participants were split into two groups. Group One had one male and seven females, and Group Two has one male and eight females.

Results Manipulation One: Social Facilitation Alone vs. Group Alone (Group #1) Group (Group #2) Mean Time Alone (sec)= 377 Mean Time Group (sec) = 328 Manipulation Two: Social Loafing Individual in a group vs. Group as a Team Individually in a Group (Team #1) Working as a Team (Team #2) Mean Time (sec)=370 Mean Time (sec)=326 Comparing the Two (Individual vs. Group) Individual vs. Group Alone Group Individual Team Time (sec) 377 328 370 326 Based on the charts above, one can see that table one supported the hypothesis. The group time was 49 seconds lower then the alone time, proving that social facilitation did occur because the group was faster then the people working alone.

As shown above, the second table did not prove the hypothesis to be true. The individuals in a group were 44 seconds faster then the group working as a team. Therefore social loafing did not occur in this experiment.

There are a couple reasons as to why it might not have supported the hypothesis. Initially, one would think that the time keeping was possibly not very accurate. The only person in our experiment who had a watch to keep the time was our Teaching Assistant therefore; some people finished at the same time or close to that time so she had a hard time keeping track of the correct time. Also, social facilitation could have taken into effect. Some people also work better under pressure, therefore people working individually could have felt pressure to finish the task quicker then they would normally if they were working alone or not being timed at all.

The third chart compares both experiments, and proves that overall working in a group is better considering both numbers are lower then on the individual side further supporting the first hypothesis.

Discussion Overall, the experiment concluded that social facilitation does occur, and social loafing does not. It proves that people work harder in a group rather than alone.

The fact that social facilitation occurred supports the first hypothesis which states that people will perform better in a group with the presence of others.

Social loafing, as stated above, did not occur. This is because the group team has a lower average time in both situations then the individual team does. This proved that the second hypothesis, which stated individuals work better alone, was not supported.

A few reasons as to why this might have occurred would be because of practice affects. The second time this task was done participants realized they had already seen and done the task before, but not in a group setting. Also, the task was not very difficult, and as such, people would not have as many reasons to quit or perform poorly. People could simply perform the task, and complete it in a reasonable time. People did not appear to be pressured by one another to a great extent. Lastly, this could have also occurred because the presence of someone else may not affect someone after the first few attempts because the individuals get used to seeing someone there. (Platania, 2001) In the first experiment, the hypothesis was supported because social facilitation occurred. A few reasons as to why this may have occurred is because people may have relied on themselves more then on the group. (Buunk et al. p.1182)

This clearly shows that in the experiment, group cohesiveness occurred. This also means that group cohesiveness will decrease or remove social loafing if the entire group and participants are involved and work together. (Hart et al. p.188) According to Zajonc (1965), when people are around one another they are more confident then working alone (Gagne et al. p.525, 1999). This means that whether the answer is correct or not, people still feel more positive about their answers working with others then individually. This could apply to both the social facilitation and the social loafing situations. It could apply to the social facilitation effect by individuals forming an answer on their own and being convinced that it is correct and thinking they have proof to back it up. It could also apply to the social loafing effect by one person feeling confident that his answer is correct, with other people agreeing to it without questioning it, and later finding out that it was incorrect, but no one thought to challenge it.

Ways in which the study can be improved on in the future is to have more then one person timing, assuring that the time recorded is correct. Also, having an even amount of females to males could also have an affect on the results.

Overall this study was successful in proving that social loafing and social facilitation play a large role in group activities. This experiment proved that social loafing did not occur, therefore no supporting the second hypothesis. However, it did support the first hypothesis proving that individuals work better in a group rather then alone.

Based on the individual themselves, in most situations individuals working in a group will do better then those working alone.

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