Module outlines by Robert C. Gates. Social Psychology


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  The Mere Presence
of Others
Social Facilitation & Inhibition

    Ψ  The tendency for people to perform tasks better when in the presence of others was called social facilitation. However, contradictory studies showed that the presence of others could hurt performance for completing complex mental problems.

    Ψ  Coactors (a special kind of audience): People who work on the same noncompetitive task at the same time. When you play on a sports team, work on team or organizational group at the office, do a group project together, or anything where you work with other people toward a goal without competing with them, you are all coactors. This is an important component to social facilitation (improved performance) & the study of how people influence each other.

    Ψ  Robert Zajonc -- Theorized that performance was linked to arousal state, not simply to the presence of others. When tasks are simple, increased arousal helps performance, but when tasks are difficult, increased arousal can hurt performance.

     New Current definition of Social Facilitation: The strengthening of simple or dominant (well learned) responses due to the presence of others.

    Ψ  Crowds: Being in a crowd intensifies positive & negative emotions. The bigger the crowd the bigger its effect. Bottom line: crowding enhances arousal, which facilitates dominant responses.

    Ψ  Why are we aroused in the presence other?

        •  Evaluation Apprehension: fear of being judged by others (either formally or informally) can increase our arousal. The self-consciousness we feel when being evaluated can interfere even with behaviors we perform automatically.

              When tasks are relatively easy, we find the presence of other people a positive stimulus such that we perform even better. However, when the tasks are difficult, we find an audience unnerving & do worse. It seems that the presence of others increases physiological arousal such that our bodies become more energized, and when we are aroused it is more difficult to perform new or difficult tasks. The dominant response, under arousal, is easier to perform.

              Concern for how others are evaluating us, evaluation apprehension may well change our performance because, depending on how we forecast that evaluation, we may look forward to either adulation or criticism & rejection. e.g. Michaels (1982) & 3 colleagues overtly watched students play pool. The better players got better. The novices got worse.

        •  Distraction: When people focus on how others are reacting to them, those thoughts become distracting, & can hamper performance on complex tasks in the presence of others.

        •  Mere Presence: Even in situations where there should be no evaluation apprehension or distraction, social facilitation can still occur. Social facilitation effects have been shown to occur with animals.

    Ψ  Suggestion: When you want someone to do well, give them an audience for an easy task. If you want to destabilize them (especially if they are not very competent), give them an audience for a difficult task.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates