Individual Differences; Social Facilitation


Key Terms

  • The influence of the presence of others on performers and may help performance (social facilitation) or inhibit performance (social inhibition).
  • SOCIAL FACILITATION: the positive influence of others, who may be watching or competing, on sports performance.
  • SOCIAL INHIBITION: the negative influence of others, who may be watching or competing, which leads in a decrease in sports performance.
  • In most sport settings, an audience or a crowd is watching the performers. The effect of this audience and the presence of other performers form the basis of social facilitation.
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  • Psychologist Zajonc has recently identified the following factors as affecting performance:
  • 1. The presence of an audience or co-actors increases the arousal level of a performer.
  • 2. This increase in arousal makes it more likely that the performer's dominant response will occur.
  • 3. If the skill to be performed is simple or the performer is an expert, the dominant response is likely to be the correct one and performance will improve.
  • 4. If the skill to be performed is complex or if the performer is a novice, the dominant response is likely to be incorrect and performance may decline.
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Evaluation Apprehension

  • Cottrell (1968) stated that: 
    • 'It wasn't the presence of the audience or co-actors alone that raised arousal levels, the presence of others had a calming effect rather than raising anxiety'. 
  • He also said that:
    • Arousal level increased only when the others present were evaluating, or were perceived by the performer to be evaluating or judging the performance.
  • Cottrell labelled this rise in arousal level as EVALUATION APPREHENSION.
  • e.g. the presence of an audience may cause a tennis player to be anxious. The level is likely to be hightened if the player is inexperienced. If the tennis player is being judged in some way, her anxiety levels could increase due to evaluation apprehension.
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Effects of SF on performance

    • Teams win more often at home than they do away. This may have something to do with the nature of the audience:
      • Whether they are hostile
      • Whether the team has it's own supporters in any numbers
      • Whether the team feels alienated by the environment. 
    • However, it would be very difficult to narrow te effects down to a particular aspect. Some research suggests playing at home is a disadvantage:
      • A performer may suffer increased pressure in front of people they know
      • They may feel that they are being evaluated more as an individual
    • Type A individuals perform less well in the presence of others than individuals with a type B personality
    • Extroverts tend to seek situations with high arousal levels and they therefore perform better with an audience. (social facilitation)
    • Introverts shy away from social situations becuase they have high levels of internal arousal. (social inhibition)
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Effects of SF on performance

    • Previous experiences in front of an audience affect future responses.
    • The elite are more likely to do well in front of an audience and will experience SF. This is because their dominant responses are more likely to be correct.
    • Well-learned performers have motor programmes stored in their long term memory that can be applied with little conscious thought.
    • The crowds knowledge of the sport may increase evaluation apprehension or the performer may feel supported becuase of the crowds well-informed empathy.
    • Performing in front of people you know can increase anxiety levels and hinder performance. 
    • If the skill to be performed is simple or gross then high arousal caused by the audience can facilitate performance.Thisi is because these types of skills don't require high levels of processing and are often dynamic in nature e.g. triple jump requires high levels of arousal.
    • If the skill to be performed is more complex or fine, then lower levels of arousal are more desirable. The presence of others can inhbit performance due to the need for concentration and decision making e.g. snooker shot. 
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Effects of SF on performance

    • The nature of the audience can affect arousal level of a performer. e.g. if the crowd is loud and competitive the performer may feel more anxious and aggressive.
    • The physical proximity of the audience can also affect arousal level and affect performance. If the crowd is very close, the performer may feel threatened. 
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Strategies to minimize social inhibition- coping w

  • Some performers try to shut out the audience so they can mentally prepare.
  • Coaches often prepare their performers for an audience by getting people to watch at training.
  • Skills could be taught in a non-evaluative atomosphere.
  • Athletes must be aware of negative distractions and need to be prepared to deal with negative reactions of co-actors and hostile spectators.
  • Insructors should be calm and focussed - there may well be a case of decreasing importance of an event.
  • Other team members also play a part is supporting their fellow players.
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