Social Performance and Social Influence
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.
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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 suggesting that the presence of others increases drive. Others were still arguing that it was the evaluation or the competition associated with others being present that produced the drive. Whether it was mere presence or evaluation apprehension that increased the drive, the drive theory remained the dominant thought of the time.
Alternative approaches to social-facilitation effects fall into three classes: The first was the continued thought that the presence of others increases drive by evaluation apprehension. The second thought suggested that the situation places demands on the individual to behave in a particular way; individuals are engaged in self-presentation and self-awareness. The third idea argued that the presence of others affects focus and attention to the task, meaning that the task becomes cognitive. Hence, the controversy over whether it is the mere presence of others or evaluation that causes social facilitation is unresolved.
Social Loafing Social facilitation research demonstrates that the presence of others sometimes enhances performance, yet at times reduces it. But, how does working with others affect motivation? Many would argue that groups should energize and motivate. The tendency for individuals to work less hard on a collective task than on an individual task is called social loafing. For example, those group projects at work or school where a few individuals did the majority of the work–social loafing.
Research in this area has been conducted in a way that makes individuals believe that they are either working alone or working with others–then measures efforts toward the task. For example, Ringelmann (Kravitz & Martin, 1986) had volunteers pull on a rope as hard as they could in groups of varying sizes. Their efforts decreased as group sizes increased. This was explained in two ways: their motivation decreased as groups size increased or maybe the larger groups were not able to coordinate their efforts efficiently. Researchers sought to tease apart these two factors, focusing on motivation.
You can imagine that it was difficult to devise methods that lead participants to believe they were either working alone (when they were not) or with others (when they were working alone), which lends to the difficulty of studying social loafing. However, over 100 studies (Steiner, 1972; Griffith, Fichman, & Moreland, 1989; Jackson & Williams, 1985; Henningsen et al. , 2000) have tested the effects of groups on motivation, and social loafing has been replicated in most of these studies. Other theories have attempted to explain social loafing.
Social impact theory states that when a group is working together, the expectation is that the effort should be diffused across all participants, resulting in diminished effort. Arousal reduction postulates that the presence of others should increase drive only when they are observers and reduce our efforts when they are coworkers. Evaluation potential suggests that social loafing occurs because individual efforts are so difficult to identify during a collective task; one can easily hide in the crowd or may feel they will not be acknowledged for their hard work.
Dispensability of effort argues that individuals may feel their efforts are unnecessary or dispensable. The group simply does not need them. An integrative theory: the collective effort model states that individuals will work hard on a task only to the degree to which they believe their efforts will be instrumental in leading to outcomes they value, personally. Hence, the value they place on the task (and their efforts) depends on their personal beliefs, task meaningfulness, favorable interactions with the group, the nature of the rewards, and the extent to which their future goals are impacted by the task.
Social loafing can be moderated, or reduced, when individuals’ efforts can be identified or evaluated, when individuals are working on a task they deem as important or of personal relevance, or when individuals are working with cohesive groups or close friends. Individual differences or characteristics also influence who engages in social loafing less because they value collective outcomes. For example, a need for affiliation, a hard work ethic, or high self-monitoring can influence effort. It should be clear that the mere presence of others is arousing.
It appears that if others are competitors or evaluators they facilitate motivation to work harder. If individuals see others as a part of themselves, they can hide behind them or their efforts can get lost in the efforts of others. Further research in this area can help us determine how our view of others affects our motivation and performance. Social Influence Processes of Control and Change Social influence is one of the primary research areas in social psychology and refers to the ways in which opinions and attitudes influence the opinions and attitudes of others.
Two types of social influence can be identified in groups: influence aimed at maintaining group norms (social control) or changing group norms (social change). The most common form of social control is conformity, where an individual complies with or accepts the group’s views. Since the influence is typically within a context of a group of people influencing an individual, it is referred to as majority influence. Another type of social control is obedience, where individuals obey an authority figure, often against their will.
For group norms to change, a small subset of the group must resist the majority view, which is termed minority influence. If minorities never resisted, group opinions would persist, fashions would never change, innovations would not come about, etc. It must be clear that the term majority refers to the larger group of people who hold the normative view and has power over others. Minority groups tend to be small, hold nonnormative positions, and wield very little power.
This study textbook is concerned with two influence processes: processes that ensure that others adhere to the group’s position (social control; conformity and obedience) or processes that aim to change the group’s position (social change: innovation and active minorities). Social influence has studied how individuals conform to the majority, often by giving an obvious erroneous response to a question. According to Festinger (1950, 1954), this occurs because there are social pressures for groups to reach consensus, especially when there is a group goal.
Individuals seek social approval and seek others to verify their opinions. Deutsch and Gerard (1955) distinguish between normative social influence (conforming to expectations of others) and informational social influence (accepting information from the group as reality). Another view is that people conform over concerns for positive self-evaluations, to have good relationships with others, and to better understand a situation by reducing uncertainty. Social influence also addresses why people comply with acts that clearly cause harm to another.
The study of obedience is intimately tied to one social psychologist–Stanley Milgram (1963). His post-WWII research aimed to understand why people willingly engaged in the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis. People probably preferred to believe these were evil, disturbed men who were intrinsically evil? However, many of them claimed they were not responsible for their behavior. After all, they were simply following orders. In Milgram’s (1963) classic study, he led participants (who were assigned to be “teachers”) to believe they were administering harmful shocks to the “learners” each time they made an error on a task.
The experimenter (the authority figure) demanded they increase the level of shock for each incorrect response. As shocks increased, the receiver (the learner, who was out of the sight of the teacher) responded with distressed reactions. However, the teacher was encouraged, even demanded, to continue the experiment, even though he believed the learner was experiencing extreme distress. The question was, to what extent normal people would obey the instructions of the authority figure and administer harmful levels of shock to harm another individual.
Milgram’s results showed that a full 65% of all participants administered every level of shock, surpassing levels believed to do fatal harm to subjects. Milgram’s findings have been replicated with consistent results. Why did they obey? Milgram offered the following explanations: (a) they had entered into a contract with the experimenter and did not wish to spoil the experiment; (b) they were absorbed in the experiment and lost sight of the implications of their actions; (c) the participants are acting for the experimenter; they may be pushing the buttons, but they are not responsible, the experimenter is.
Notice these are all situational explanations; participants were put into a powerful role relationship with the experimenter. However, when the experimenter was not visible, or another participant played the role of the experimenter, obedience rates decreased, but did not fall to zero, indicating the role relationship did not fully account for their obedience. Milgram’s research remains some of the most intriguing and influential in social psychology. Minority Influence
Moscovici’s (1976) book Social Influence and Social Change, he argues that minorities can create conflict by offering a different perspective, thereby challenging the dominant or majority view. Moscovici claims that people trying to avoid conflict may dismiss the minority position, and possibly denigrate it. However, when the minority demonstrates commitment to their position, the majority may consider the minority view as a viable alternative. He called this the minority’s behavioral style–meaning the way the message is organized and communicated.
By standing up to the majority, the minority demonstrates that it is certain, confident, committed, and not easily persuaded. Researchers have compared majority and minority influence. Conversion theory is the dominant perspective and argues that all forms of influence, whether minority or majority, create conflict that individuals are motivated to reduce. However, people employ different processes depending on whether the conflict is the result of majority influence or minority influence. Comparison process suggests that people focus attention on fitting in, or complying with what others say.
Their goal is to identify with the group and comply with the majority position, often times without examining the majority’s arguments in detail. Social comparison can drive majority influence, but cannot motivate minority influence, according to Moscovici (1976), because people desire to disassociate themselves with undesirable groups. Because minority groups tend to be distinctive, they stand out, and this encourages a validation process where some examine the judgments in order to confirm or validate them–to see what it is the minority saw or to understand the minority’s view.
This process can lead to increased message processing which results in an attitude change on an indirect, latent, or private level. Convergent-divergent theory is proposed by Nemeth (1986) and simply states that people expect to share the same attitude as the majority and to differ from the minority (the false-consensus heuristic). Stress is the result of realizing that the majority has a different perspective than oneself, especially if one is in the physical presence of the majority. Stress narrows one’s attention and majority influence, and then leads to convergent thinking.
Minorities, on the other hand, do not cause high levels of stress, since they hold different views, which allows for less restricted focus of attention and leads to a greater consideration of alternatives that may not have been considered without the influence of the minority view. This results in creative and original solutions. Other theories that integrate minority and majority influence include mathematical models, objective-consensus models, conflict-elaboration theory, context/comparison model, and self-categorization theory.
More contemporary models include social-cognitive responses with an emphasis on information-processing such as the elaboration likelihood model and the heuristic systematic model we discussed in an earlier chapter. New research continues to develop. Conclusion This module reviewed social psychological research that has made great contributions to the understanding of human behavior. Early research (e. g. , Triplett, 1898; Zajonc, 1965) led to the beginning of the relatively new field of social psychology.