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Describe and discuss social facilitation theory. Refer to empirical evidence in your answer.

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Introduction

4d) Describe and discuss social facilitation theory. Refer to empirical evidence in your answer. (10 marks) Social facilitation is the tendency for performance to improve on simple tasks and decline on complex tasks in the presence of others. In the case study of Triplett, he investigated the improvement in performance with co-actor which is when people work alongside each other on the same task. He compared the times taken by cyclists to cover three conditions which are alone, with a pacemaker and in a racing group. The participants had to perform either alone or in pairs after a period of practice. 40 children were tested between 11 and 17 years old and it was found that their performance improved in the presence of another actor. The average time taken was lower when they completed the task alongside another. ...read more.

Middle

The conclusion is the presence of an audience results in social facilitation when the task is well known but social inhibition when the task is more difficult. Most explanations of social facilitation focus on the concept of arousal. Social facilitation can be explained by the presence of others causing an increase in arousal. The increase in arousal pushes the level up to a point where the performance is greatest. The level of arousal at which performance is greatest is usually referred to as optimum level. This optimum level will vary according the task. A new or complex task will have a lower optimum level than a well-learned or easy task. Therefore the increase in arousal caused by the presence of others may take the arousal about the optimum level for a new task hence leading to a decline in performance. ...read more.

Conclusion

They found that the simple task with evaluation condition has increase the performance than in the simple and non-evaluated condition. In the complex task with evaluation condition has produced fewer creative ideas which leads to a decrease in performance than the complex and non-evaluation condition. The distraction conflict theory suggests that the presence of others is distracting because attention is divided between the task and the audience or co-actor. Sanders et al has investigate whether distraction would result in social facilitation on a simple task and social inhibition on a complex task. The result supported the distraction condition made more mistakes on the complex task but copied more digits correctly on the simple task than in the other two-co action condition. The dependent variable was measured by the number of mistakes made. The distraction conflict theory can be applied to any distracting stimulus. Experiments show that any form of distraction, for example noise, movement, not only social presence, can cause social facilitation. ...read more.

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