Social Facilitation

social facilitation

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What is social facilitation?

Social Facilitation - the tendency to perform better on tasks in the presence of others than alone.

Dominant Response - the response that is more likely to be given in a situation.

Social Inhibition - To perform worse in front of others than being alone.

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Arousal Theory

Arousal brings out the dominant response!

- Arousal theory doesn't explain why someone good at a task could perfrom poorly in front of an audience

- Arousal theory doesn't take in the cognitive processes

YERKES-DODSON LAW (the upside down U)

A person will perform poorly if their arousal is very high or low, a person performs best when it is in the middle.

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Evaluation Apprehension

Evaluation Apprehension - fear of being judged by others


Made to type alone, with 2 experts, 2 non experts and alone but filmed

Some evaluation apprehension is needed to produce dominant responses - supports Cottrell's theory

- The theory doesn't explain social facilitation in animals

- The presence of others may not be the only factor that affects arousal

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Distraction-Conflict theory

Distraction-Conflict theory - Attention is divided between the audience and the task



+ This theory can explain results from studies on social facilitation in animals (dogs do become distracted)

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Conformity - where a group pressure may influence a change in behaviour

SHERIF - Spot of light in a dark room, asked how much it had moved (AUTOKINETIC EFFECT) The result was that after a number of trials, people gave very similar answers (CONFORMING).

ASCH - Males were asked to match the line with the letter with stooges giving wrong answers even though the answer was unambiguous but they were all sat together which meant conformity occured.

What makes people conform?

Low self esteem

No partner

When the task is ambiguous (not clear) 

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Why do people conform?

Normative influence - wanting to be liked by the group, so going along with them

Informational influence - When someone is unsure so they turn to the others to be right

Compliance - Conforming to the majority but not really agreeing

Internalisation - Accepting the majority group's views and agreeing that they're correct. They truly believe the group is right

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Obedience to authority

Obedience to authority - obeying because someone is an authoritive figure (EG POLICEMAN)

MILGRAM - 40 Men volunteered at yale university. The man wore a lab coat (looking authoritarian). He made the men watch as a guy was strapped into a chair and electrodes were attached to him, he was then gave a sample shock. The men were assured that though the shocks were painful, they were not harmful. The men were asked to shock the man at 450 volts (they were fake) 

The results were that ordinary people are capable of following orders from an authoritarian even if it results in another person dying


  • Personal responsibility
  • Legitimate orders
  • Social norms
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Why do people disobey?

What makes people disobey?

  • Social support
  • Role models
  • questioning motives
  • loss of freedom (feeling manipulated)

Ethical issues that may occur during studying of social influence -

  • Deception (lying to the ppts)
  • Respect for privacy
  • Informed consent (giving the aim and procedure)
  • Debriefing (after the experiment)
  • Protection from harm (E.G asch's ppts suffered from stress
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