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Social facilitaion
• Triplett (1898)- cycle

- based on an oberservation that competing cyclists produced faster times when

racing with other cyclists
- rather than simply competing on their own
- he found that cyclists were slowest when racing alone and fasestest when
racing with a pacemaker or in a racing group.

• *Triplett (1898) social facilitaion

Aim:whether or not performance would be enhanced in the presence of other

people performing the same task.

- Instructed to wind in a line on a fishing reel as quickly as they could.
- In a practice period, participants performed the task both alone and in
pairs, alternating between the two conditions.
- In each trial, participants were timed to determine how long it took to
make about 150 winds of the reel.
- Performance faster in the presence of another person than when the task
was done alone.
- Participants were 1% faster when working in pairs than alone.


- Participants performance at the task was facilitated (enhanced) by the presence

of another person -performing the same task
- The mere presence of another person performing the same task = social

• Allport (1924) social facilitaion

- Participants worked alone in cubicles or sitting together round a table

- with simple tasks such as crossing out certain letters in words-performance
was better in front of other people
- with complicated tasks such as solving complex problems-performance was
better when participants worked alone.
Dashiell (1930) social facilitaion
-number of arithmetic problems performed by participants increased in the
presence of others
- and so did the number of errors made

Schmitt et al 1986- social facilitation

- participant typed name faster in front of an audience
- to type name backwards = performance better when alone.

*Michael et al (1982) dominant response

- Test the prediction that the presence o an audience would facilitate dominate
responses and inhibit poorly learned behaviours.


- first part of study: student pool players were observed in a students union
building from a distant
- 12 players were selected: 6 identified as above average , 6 below average

- Second part of study: 4 observers stood round a pool table and observed
players, made their presence known over a number of games.


• above average = potted 80% of their shots when observed, compared to

71% when not observed- social facilitation

• below average = potted 25% of their shots when observed compared to 36%
accuracy when not observed- social inhibitation


-audience facilitates (enhances) dominant response

- audience inhibit non-dominant responses
Zajonc et al 1965- dominant responses

-performance of a well-learned or well-practised task is facilitated/enhanced by

the presence of other people
- complex tasks is inhibited by presence of other people

-Simple mazes are learned faster in the presence of other like animals
-complex mazes are learned faster alone -Zajonc et al 1969.

Zajonc 1965-social facilitation and arousal

-put forward the drive theory of social facilitation

-presence of other people increase a person’s general level of arousal- become

more energised/alert- this increases performance of dominate responses

- When arousal is low e.g. sleepy = poor task performance

- Arousal moderate = optimum performance

o Zajonc’s drive theory of social facilitation suggests the presence of

others when performing dominant responses increases arousal to an
optimum level.
Increase Better performance
Presence of others of a dominant

Cottrell 1972- evaluation apprehension

-In presence of others we are concerned that they are evaluating our performance

-effect of evaluation apprehension on a simple task/ well-learned = arousal =

performance facilitated

- on new tasks/complicated tasks , it is done better when done alone than when
there is an audience – due to evaluation apprehension

- to investigate whether or not evaluation apprehension would lead to
improvement in performance on a simple task and inhabitation of performance
on a complex task.


-participants presented with same basic task, which involved thinking of many
different uses of a knife.

-one group asked to list all different uses of a knife that they could think of

-another group had to think of creative uses of the knives

- some participants in each condition were told that their performance would be
identified ( the evaluation apprehension condition)

- other participants in each condition were told that their ideas would be
collected together as a group- but that no individual would be identified.


 Simple tasks: the evaluation apprehension condition:- produced more uses

for a knife than participants in the the condition.

 Complex task: the evaluation apprehension condition:-produced fewer

creative uses for a knife


-Evaluation apprehension increases performance on simple tasks

-Decreases performance on complex tasks
Saunders et al 1978- distraction
To test the effect of distraction conflict on performance of a task

- Participants presented with either a difficult or simple task t- to perform in the
presence of others

-performing either the same or different task

- hypothesised that a co-actor performing same task as participant would

produce more distraction

- since they would be a source of comparison for the participant’s performance


- high distraction condition: participant performed at a higher level on the

simple tasks
- but produced more errors on complex task


-Evidence in support of the distraction- conflict theory of social facilitation.

Mac Cracken and Stadulis 1985- evaluation apprehension

Presence of audience had no effect on children under 8.

Evaluation apprehension may be something that develops with age.

• recent studies have shown that it is arousal alone which explains social
• now thought that both arousal and cognitive processes e.g. attention are

• May be arousal results from cognitive demands e.g. paying attention to both
task and audience -results in – reduced or narrowed attention to the task

• Wicklund 1975 – self-awareness - proposed that, when in front of other

people- immediate response is to focus on oneself. – this causes the person to
compare how he or she would like to perform ideally with how they actually

• If there is a significant difference between the ideal and the reality – the
person tries to perform to their ideal.- this works on dominant responses not
non-dominant responses.

• After more than 100 years of study, no psychologist have agreed on one
explanation for social facilitation

• Criticisms of the research:

- audiences in experiments- tend to be passive and simply observe

- real audiences are noisy and judge e.g. theatre, sports stadium

- research has largely ignored personality differences between individuals e.g

Triplett 1898 = found 25% PPs showed worse, not better performance in front of

- tasks given lack ecological validity