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Do you prefer to work in a group or by yourself? Why? Working in a group certainly has a number of advantages and disadvantages. In this lesson, we discuss three phenomena that can occur as a result of working in groups: groupthink, social loafing, and social facilitation.

Social Groups

Social groups are a basic part of human life. Except in rare cases, we all typically belong to many different types of social groups.

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Our groups give us security, companionship, values, norms, and so on. Beyond our primary groups of family and friends, most of us have several secondary groups that exist at work or school. With every group we’re in, we see different effects, advantages, disadvantages, and consequences. The effects we’ll discuss in this lesson are groupthink, social loafing, and social facilitation.

Groupthink

A negative consequence that can occur as a result of working in a group is groupthink, which is when a group makes faulty or ineffective decisions for the sake of reaching a consensus. In other words, group members are so focused on avoiding conflict and maintaining harmony that they reach a consensus without even considering alternatives.For example, imagine you’re with a group of colleagues, and you’ve decided to have lunch together.

One person suggests a Chinese restaurant, and everyone agrees, so you all head to the restaurant together. You don’t actually like Chinese food and just agreed to go to avoid conflict. It turns out that no one else likes Chinese food, either – they all agreed to go for the same reason you did! Although this is a simple example, there are times that groupthink results in disaster. We’ll discuss groupthink more in-depth in another lesson.

A study on social loafing showed that people made less effort when pulling on a rope in a group
An example of the free-rider effect is that people clap and cheer more quietly when in a group
Social facilitation is another phenomenon that results from working in groups but can be positive or negative. It is the tendency of the presence of others to affect how well we perform a task. Have you ever messed up typing when someone was looking over your shoulder or performed better when singing karaoke with a group instead of by yourself?Research has shown that the presence of others typically enhances performance on simple or well-learned tasks but impairs performance on complex or difficult tasks.

For example, the first study on social facilitation, conducted by Norman Triplett, found that cyclists had faster times when cycling in groups rather than cycling alone. The theory is that the presence of the other cyclists presented a challenge that resulted in an increase in adrenaline and energy.

Cyclists tend to have faster times when cycling in a group than when cycling alone
Social Facilitation

In contrast, another study found that the presence of others has a negative effect on complex cognitive skills. Joseph Pessin asked people to memorize a list of nonsense words that were all seven syllables long.

He found that participants took longer to memorize the list in front of others and also made more mistakes. Because the task was not simple or well-practiced, the presence of others acted as a hindrance to performance.

Lesson Summary

In summary, groupthink, social loafing, and social facilitation are all potential effects of working in groups. Groupthink is when a group makes faulty or ineffective decisions because they are so focused on avoiding conflict and reaching a consensus.Social loafing is the tendency for people to work less hard when they are in a group.

People tend to exert less effort when working with others because they feel that their contributions don’t matter and won’t help the group, or they’re afraid they will be suckered into doing most of the work, so they wait and see what everyone else does.Social facilitation is the tendency for our performance to be affected when other people are present. Typically, we do better in the presence of others when performing a task that is easy or we know well because we feel the need to compete against them or impress them. On the other hand, we typically do worse when the task is more complex or difficult.

Learning Outcomes

Once you have watched this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe groupthink and social loafing as well as the ‘sucker effect’ and the ‘free-rider effect’
  • Define social facilitation and explain how it can be positive or negative

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