Social Performance and Social Influence
Social performance is the study of how the presence of others affects behavior. At times, the mere presence of others can have a facilitating or motivating effect, improving performance. However, when others are present, people may also become hindered or less motivated. This class will explore how one's perception of others determines one's response. Hetherington, Anderson, Norton, and Newson (2003) explored how eating behavior is influenced when eating alone, with strangers, or with friends. Would you predict that eating with others has a facilitating effect, increasing food intake, or the opposite effect, decreasing the amount of food eaten? Research on social influence, which refers to how the attitudes and opinions of others influence one's attitudes and opinions, is one of the greatest contributions of social psychological research in understanding human behavior. This class focuses on two different types of social influence, one that serves to maintain group norms (social control: conformity and obedience) and the other that aims to change group norms (social change by minority influence and innovation). Social psychologist, Dr. Robert Cialdini has researched basic principles that govern how one person may influence another. You will read about these six principles in his 2002 article "The Science and Practice of Persuasion." Social Performance
Aristotle first called humans social animals. People tend to gather, play, and work in groups. Groups fulfill a variety of functions such as satisfying the need to belong, providing support and intimacy, and assisting in accomplishing tasks that individuals could not accomplish alone, etc. In Chapter 13 of the textbook, groups will be defined as two or more people working together on a task in which the outcome is quantifiable. This discussion will focus on two major areas that have been researched since the end of the 19th century: social facilitation and social loafing. Social Facilitation
At first glance, these terms seem to be opposing behaviors: social facilitation refers to the fact that people work harder in groups, whereas social loafing describes their tendency reduce their efforts when in groups. The difference, it appears, is how people view the individuals in their groups–whether they perceive those in the group as being with them us or against them. If group members are against them, they perceive them as competitors, evaluators, or sources of comparison, which is likely to increase or facilitate their efforts. If they are with them, sharing in the demands of the task and evaluation, they are likely to "loaf" or reduce our efforts. These findings appear counterintuitive. Research on social facilitation began with Triplett (1989) who observed that cyclists pedaled faster, or performed better, when others were present than when performing alone. He argued that the other biker was a stimulus, arousing a competitive instinct in the cyclist. He tested his theory by asking children to wind fishing reels either alone or beside other children. The majority of the children turned the wheel faster when working alongside another child than when reeling alone. Allport (1924) termed this effect social facilitation. Still, it seemed that many disagreed about whether the presence of others increased or decreased performance on tasks. Zajonc (1965) renewed interest in social facilitation, and suggested that the presence of others enhanced a dominant response–which is the most probable response on a given task. If the task is simple and well-learned, the dominant response will be facilitated. For example, if you were a skilled concert pianist, performing in front of others would increase your proficiency on the task; you would play beautifully. Since you are not skilled at this art, being observed by others would no doubt cause anxiety and would result in quite the opposite effect, inhibiting your performance. Zajonc was...
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