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Social Facilitation | AQA B Psychology
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Social Facilitation

Social Facilitation

Social Facilitation – performing better at a task when there are other people around
Social Inhibition – performing less well when there is an audience

Audience effects are the effects of the mere presence of other who are not taking any part in the task the person is carrying out.

Coaction effect is the effects on task performance when other people present are carrying out the same task.

Triplett (1898) observed that cyclists rode faster when racing with others then when racing alone. A similar observation was soon discovered with children when asked to wind up fishing reels in pairs – children did this quicker when with others.

Experiment: Travis (1925)

Method: 20 participants were involved in a hand-eye coordination experiment. They took part in the task that required them to follow a light through a track and were expected to do these both alone and in front of an audience. Their results were then compared.

Results: 18 of the 20 participants performed better when there was an application.
16 of the 20 achieved their best score under these conditions

Conclusion: Carrying out a task in front of an audience can facilitate performance.

Zajonc’s Drive theory of social facilitation

Zajonc’s (1965) explained these results in terms of task difficult. He suggested that the physical presence of an audience creates arousal. He saw arousal as an innate response, which is adaptive in that it prepares a person to respond to any unexpected action carried out by someone else.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law

This law states that a certain amount of arousal leads to improved task performance, while too much arousal has a negative effect on performance. Furthermore, the more complex the task is, the lower the optimum level of arousal.

Zajonc et al & and the Cockroaches

This experiment was aimed towards discovering whether cockroaches performed better depending on the complexity of the task.


  • Cockroaches were put in a maze with a bright light at the start to get them to move away from it
  • Some mazes were straight, and others were more complex with more turns
  • Some trials also had cockroaches run alone and in paurs
  • Some trials had no audience and others had audiences (4 cockroaches)


  • Cockroaches ran faster on the easy mazes in pairs or with an audience
  • They were also faster on the compex mazes alone and without an audience

Conclusion: The effect on task performance of coactors or an audience depends on the complexity of the task

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