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Social Facilitation

Social facilitation/ the audience effect means the ability of an individual to perform better in each easy task in the presence of others or when being watched rather than when he is alone. This theory also states that if the given task is more complex or has not been performed earlier, then there will be decreased performance and efficacy and there will be more chances of error than when the task has been performed earlier this is known as the Yerkes Dodson law. There are three theories of social facilitation:

Activation theory

It proposes that in the presence of others there is arousal and activation of a person allowing for the performance of prior rehearsed tasks. Several hypotheses have been tested under this theory including alertness, monitoring and challenge hypothesis.

Evaluation approach

This approach adds on to the above that the improved performance is not merely due to the presence of an audience but due to the fear of being assessed by the audience.

Self-presentation approach

This approach puts forward that before an audience the presenter is aware of the effects of negative evaluation and thus the person becomes aroused for better performance. Similarly, the presenter may have a simple task, or the person may be confident enough thus relying on an inside drive as opposed to arousal for good performance.


De-individuation refers to a psychological state in which a person has reduced evaluation of oneself and his behavior leads to anti-normative and disinhibition. Persons tend to lose their self-awareness and self-control when before crowds. The persons become anonymous and may engage in actions they can’t do when they are alone as they are more responsible.

Ideal contributing factors:

  • Group size – get lost in the crowd
  • Physical anonymity – use of masks, costumes, face paint
  • Arousing activities – may lead to an escalation

This refers to violent crowds and even to genocide. De-individuation usually results in actions leading to negative impact and consequences but it can also lead to positive outcomes such as meditation and hobbies. In a group of large people, a person assumes the identity of that group and individual’s own identity is lost leading to performing anti-normative things which otherwise he would not do when he was alone.

This also causes reduced responsibility for one’s actions as others are involved in it as well. Research by Diener et al states that people in larger anonymous groups, when given a chance to steal candy, increased the stealing rate to three-fold.

Another study was conducted by Philip Zimbardo in Stanford University where different subjects were randomly assigned the roles of prisoners and guards. The results showed that subjects behaved according to the situation rather than dis-positional. In addition, individuals somehow conformed to the social group roles they were expected to play, especially in the case of guards who acted authoritatively.

Bystander Effect or Bystander Apathy

This explains that a person will not offer help to a victim in the presence of other people. The probability of helping others is inversely proportional to the number of people present around the victim. Following are the factors which affect the behavior of the bystanders:

Emergency versus non-emergency situations: in an experiment performed by Latane and Darley, they explained that the way a victim asks for help matters a lot. They conducted experiments in which they asked students to ask the name of the stranger passing by. More strangers replied and gave their names when the students told their names first. Similarly, one more experiment was performed in which the students were told to ask for a dime from a stranger.

Less people helped them when they directly asked for a dime but when the students told that their wallet is lost and they don’t have money, then more strangers helped them. Also according to the principle of social influence people are influenced by how others are reacting to the situation. If other people think that the victim does not need help and they don’t intervene, then the bystander will also not offer help and vice versa.

Ambiguity and consequences: in this context, ambiguity means that whether a person knows that the victim needs help or not. In high ambiguous situations in which the victim is not asking for any help or is not shouting or the situation is not severe, then the reaction time of the bystander will be more and it can go as slow as up to 5 minutes. In low ambiguous situations where the victim is yelling for help or there is a huge amount of blood loss, the reaction time will be less than a few seconds. In this case, the number of bystanders does not matter.

Understanding of environment: if the bystander is present in a known environment, the reaction time will be less as he knows from where to get help but if he is present in an  unknown environment then the reaction time will be more as he will not be knowing what to do in an emergency and it will take more time to think of how he can help the victim.

Cohesiveness and group membership: cohesiveness means established relationship with other people for example friends. This subject can be explained by the experiment performed by Rutkowski in which he arranged different groups according to the relationship with one another. In his experiment, he explained that a group of four best friends when asked to help a victim were quicker in response as compared to the group in which the people did not know each other.

Altruism: this research states that people will help other people if they both have similarities.

Diffusion of responsibility: Darley and Latane conducted research and proposed that it is less likely that the people will help the victim in the presence of others because he will assume that others are there to help the victim so the responsibility will be diffused. It is also possible that no one takes the responsibility to help the victim in the presence of others.

Social Loafing

Social loafing can be described as a phenomenon in which a person when place in a group exert less effort in achieving the goal as compared to when he is alone. In an experiment performed by Ringelman, he showed that when people were asked to pull a rope in groups, they exerted less effort as compared to when alone. This phenomenon is explained in recent studies as well. One of the major causes can be the fact that individuals think their effort will not be recognized in groups. This arises due to the feeling of diffusion of responsibility among all the people.

Social Control

warning sign

Image: “Warning signs.” by Svenska84.

This can be defined as to adapt to the person’s habits according to the social norms. There are two types:

  1. Formal means of social control: rules and laws enforced by the government in order to maintain balance in the society.
  2. Informal means of social control: this means of control can be defined as to mold the abilities of an individual which can be of wide range into a narrower scale which is accepted by the society

Signs warning of prohibited activities; an example of social control.

The concept of social control has been related to another concept known as the Social order which includes the following areas:

  • Existing education system
  • The law
  • Psychiatry
  • Social work
  • Working environment
  • Welfare state

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure also known as social pressure can be defined as the influence exerted by others on an individual which leads to change in attitudes or behavior. This phenomenon can be explained by research in which adolescent male was told to drive and different scenarios were provided to them. It showed that the chances of risk-taking were increased in the presence of peers or passengers and the rate of risk-taking decreased when they were alone.

Social groups affected can include:

  • Membership groups: formal or informal members and cliques
  • Dissociative groups: wish to avoid associating, behave counter to group norms

Conformity and Obedience

It can be defined as social pressure on an individual that leads to change his beliefs and attitudes in order to fit in a group. This can be real (in which other people are involved) or imaginary (norms and society). This experiment was first performed by a psychologist named Jenness. He performed the experiment by giving individuals a glass bottle with beads in it and then asked them to count them.

Then he placed them in a room as a group and asked them to again estimate the number of beads and inquired them whether they desired to change their initial estimates or not. Most of them changed their answers according to the group estimates.

There are three types of conformity:

  1. Compliance: this is a form in which an individual adopts himself according to others in order to achieve reward or acceptance by others and to avoid punishment.
  2. Internalization: this is a conformity within oneself. It means a person adopts attitudes and actions which are according to norms but deep inside he knows that they are correct and whatever he does, he agrees with it as well.
  3. Identification: in this a person adopts an attitude to attain a satisfying relationship with another person or group.

Factors that can influence conformity include:

  • Group size: lager group brings more conformity
  • Unanimity: strong pressure not to dissent
  • Cohesion: the individual will agree with another individual with whom he identifies
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