An Experiment to Investigate How an Active Audience Will Affect a Skilled or Unskilled Player's Performance

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An Experiment to

Investigate How an

Active Audience Will

Affect a Skilled or

Unskilled Player’s



Centre Name:  St. Leonard’s RC Comprehensive

Centre Number:  43421

Candidate Name:  Sarah Davey

Candidate Number:  6767

By Sarah Davey


Empirical Evidence used for this experiment was that of Triplett, Michaels et al. and Pessin, which all look at how an audience can affect a performance. Pessin and Triplett lacks ecological validity, due to unsporting relation, whilst Michaels et al. can be generalised more with this experiment, and is based on this.

The aim of this experiment was to investigate whether skilled netball players with an active audience, would score more goals in 1 minute than unskilled players with an active audience.

The Alternative Hypothesis of this experiment was that, skilled players would score significantly more netball goals in 1 minute, with an active audience than those who are unskilled.

An experimental method was employed and an Independent Measures Design was chosen.

The end T-Score was 18.4, and the Critical Value was 1.734.


INTRODUCTION:  The generality of the investigation is to do with Sports Psychology. The main part of the experiment is based upon “Social Facilitation”, which leads onto the “Dominant Response”.  “Social Facilitation” refers to the way in which the presence of other people may improve our performance. This presence could be other participants or an audience. The “Dominant Response” refers to the behaviour we are most likely to display under a certain given situation. When a player has learned and practiced certain behaviour or is highly skilled in a certain sport, then this is known as their “Dominant Response”. In the case of a world-class netballer, they would have practiced their sport and the behaviour that matches it in front of other members of the team, coaches and also in front of an audience when in competition. And in a match, this observance of other members, coaches and especially an audience, will enhance and facilitate their performance. Unskilled players usually have an opposite affect with an audience, as their dominant response is to perform more weakly. Triplett was the first psychologist to investigate Social Facilitation.

   Triplett (1898), devised a task to investigate whether a performance would be enhanced or not, by the presence of other participants performing the same task. Participants were to wind in the line on a fishing reel as quickly as they could. Participants performed the task in pairs, and alone, alternating between the two conditions. These participants were timed at how long it took to wind 150 times round the reel, and these times were recorded. It was found that participants were 1 percent faster when put with another participant, than when alone. This shows that their performance improved. Triplett concluded that a participant’s performance is improved or facilitated by the presence of another participant, which produces social facilitation.

      Strengths and weaknesses can be found in this study taken by Triplett. Triplett however, did find that participants did provide a better performance when competing against others.

     The main criticism of this study is that it isn’t sport related, therefore making it lack ecological validity. This lack of ecological validity means that the study can’t be generalised to the population. Also containing the fact that the study was carried out a long time ago, means that it isn’t useful or up to date with today’s life and teachings, therefore Michaels et al.’s study may be more useful to look at.

   Pessin (1933), set out to investigate how well people would be able to perform a task in front of an audience. They were asked to learn lists of nonsense syllables (e.g. KAX). This would be done either in front of an audience or alone. Pessin found that performance levels decreased in the presence of an audience. Participants with the audience condition required more trials to learn the list of nonsense syllables. The number of errors made (wrongly recalled nonsense syllables), was higher in the audience condition. Pessin concluded and found that his results directly contradict results obtained by Triplett.

There are many strengths and weaknesses of Pessin’s study. Just like Triplett, this study lacks ecological validity, as it hasn’t got anything to do with the sporting side or reasoning to the experiment. Also, Michaels et al’s study is much more up to date, as well as being closer to sport. Ecological validity is lacking again, as the experiment is carried out in a lab, therefore not being able to be generalised with real life situations.

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      Michaels et al. investigated the Dominant Response, using Zajonc’s prediction that ‘Performance is facilitated and learning is impaired by the presence of spectators’.

   Michaels et al. (1982), conducted a study to see how the presence of an audience would facilitate to a skilled performer to an unskilled performer. In a Student’s Union building, 12 pool players were observed. After observation, 6 were identified to being skilled or above average players, and the other 6 were identified to being unskilled or below average players. The players were then observed by 4 other people situated around ...

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