Social Facilitation & Inhibition

Triplett in 1898 was the first to find this, and determined it dynamogenic factor theory; the mere presence of another brings out a competitive instinct.

This competitive instinct is not always the appropriate reaction to a situation.

Social Facilitation vs Inhibition

Social facilitation is the tendency to perform better at a well-learned task when in the presence of other people. I.e. the presence of others enhances an already-good ability.

The tendency to perform worse at a new or poorly-learned task when in the presence of other people is know as Social Inhibition.

Studies Testing Arousal

Arousal brings out the dominant/competitive instinct. But what brings out this arousal?

  • Mere presence of others (Zajonc & Sales, 1966)
    • Cockroaches have the same effect with other cockroaches in mazes
  • Evaluation Apprehension (Cottrell, 1968)
    • This feature is unique to humans
    • Markus, 1978 studied the difference in speed between dressing with blind-folded others in the room vs dressing with others evaluating you


  • Distraction-conflict (Baron et al, 1978)

Social Loafing

Social facilitation doesn't always occur when with others. If individual effort cannot be measured or people don't feel that they are not personally relevant to the success of a task, they are more likely to fall back to social loafing.

Similar to the bystander effect, responsibility diffuses in a large group.

Ringelmann, 1913, measured maximum pull-strength of an individual, and then measured how hard they pulled when in a group. The individuals pulled less hard when in a group.


Conformity is essential for social living. Ross, 1908, determined that imitation is universal.

Kiesler in 1969 defined conformity as a change in behaviour or belief toward a group as a result of real or imagined pressure.

Asch Paradigm

The Asch conformity experiments were performed during the 1950. They demonstrated the effect of a crowd majority on an individual's belief/behaviour.

He sat participants around a table, and asked them to compare the lengths of lines. Everyone before the (real) participant would say the (obviously) incorrect answer, and see what the participant said.

Over 35% conform, knowing it's incorrect.
25% stay independent, but suffer from stress and feel crazy.

Influences on Conformity

  • Proportional to group size (3+)
  • Decreased with a supporting confederate
  • Increased with ambiguous/confusing stimuli
  • Increased with insecurity
  • Increased when you admire the people

Real vs Simulated Participants

Being given text judgements of other participants is just as effective as being in a room with them. Hence researchers could use fake data rather than research assistants.