Social Facilitation

Dominant response

When we become aroused, we produce a response which is most likely to be given in the situation. For a well-learned task, the dominant response will be to perform the task well. For a poorly learned task, the dominant response will be to perform badly.

Arousal theory

Where the presence of others increases our arousal, this then increases the tendency for someone to perform their dominant response. Performance in a task is optimum when arousal is moderate. In easy or well-learned tasks, dominant responses tend to be correct so our performance is facilitated but in difficult or poorly-learned tasks, our dominant responses tend to be incorrect and our performance is therefore inhibited.

Michaels et al study

Aim- To test the prediction that the presence of others facilitates well learned behaviour and inhibits poorly learned behaviour.

Method- 12 pool players were observed at a student’s union building. 6 players played above average and 6 played below average. In the first part of the study, they were not publically observed and in the second part of the study, 4 observers stood around the pool table.

Results-The above average players plotted 80% of their shots when observed compared to 71% when not. While the bellow average players played worse when observed.

Conclusion-An audience facilitates, enhances or exaggerates dominant responses of above average players to play well and below average players not to play well.


·         Lack of awareness as they really were being observed in the first condition.

·         The sampling is bias as the participants are all male students.

·         Stress of the study could have caused physological harm, leading to physical harm.


·         High ecological validity as it’s naturalistic(field experiment)

Evaluation of arousal theory


·         The theory doesn’t account for the Yerks Dodson law

·         It doesn’t explain our cognitive differences


§  The explanation could explain social facilitation alongside other cognitive processes.

Evaluation apprehension

When in the presence of others (co-actors), we may think that they are evaluating us on our performance, thus increasing arousal and affecting our performance. The effect of evaluation apprehension on an easy or well-learned task causes our performance to be facilitated. Whereas if the task is poorly-learned or difficult, our performance is then inhibited.

Henchy and Glass

Aim- To investigate whether the fear of being evaluated is necessary in producing a dominant response.

Method- Participants took part in an assessed typing test and were observed in 4 different conditions:

1.        Alone

2.       In the presence of two experts

3.       In the presence of two none experts

4.      Alone but filmed for later evaluation

Results- Facilitation occurred in conditions 2 and 4.

Conclusion-Some concern about evaluation is necessary in producing a dominant response.


§  Low ecological validity as it is an artificial task.

§  Doesn’t explain our cognitive differences.

§  Stress of the study could have caused physological harm, leading to physical harm.



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