Chapter 7- Group Influence From Social Psychology -Myers, Spencer, Jordan -4th ed.

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16 Oct 2011

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Chapter 7: Group Influence
What is a Group?
- Group: two or more people who, for longer than a few moments, interact with and
influence one another and perceive one another as “us”
- Shaw argues that all groups have one thing in common their members interact
- Groups may exist for a number of reasons to meet a need to belong, to provide
information, to supply rewards, to accomplish goals
- For example, the people on an airplane are not a group although physically together,
they are more of a collection of individuals than an interacting group
- 3 types of social collective influence:
o Social facilitation
o Social loafing
o Deindividuation
Social Facilitation: How Are We Affected by the Presence of Others?
- Coactors: a group of people working simultaneously and individually on a non-
competitive task
The Mere Presence of Others
- E.g., Triplett noticed that cyclists’ times were faster when racing together than when
racing alone and conducted an experiment
o Children told to wind string on a fishing reel as fast as they could, wound faster
when they worked with coactors than when they worked alone
- Social facilitation: the tendency of people to perform simple or well-learned tasks better
than others are present
o The strengthening of dominant (prevalent, likely) responses owing to the
presence of others
- E.g., Zajonc wondered whether these seemingly contradictory findings could be
reconciled and used one field of research to illuminate another
o In this case, the illumination came from a well-established principle in
experimental psychology arousal enhances whatever response tendency is
o Increased arousal enhances performance on easy tasks for which the most likely
“dominant” response is the correct one
o People solve easy anagrams fastest when they are anxious
o On complex tasks, for which the correct answer is not dominant, increased
arousal promotes incorrect responding
o On harder anagrams, people do worse when anxious
- Winding fishing reels, doing simple multiplication problems, and eating were all easy
tasks for which the responses were well learned or naturally dominant
o Having others around boosted performance
- Learning new material, doing a maze, and solving complex math problems were more
difficult tasks for which the correct responses were initially less probable
o The presence of others increased the number of incorrect responses on these
- Thus, arousal facilitates dominant responses
Others present
Enhancing easy behaviour
Impairing difficult behaviour
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Crowding: The Presence of Many Others
- People do respond to others’ presence
- But does the presence of observers always arouse people? in times of stress, a
comrade can be comforting
- But with others present, people perspire more, breathe faster, tense their muscles more,
and have higher blood pressure and a faster heart rate
- Even a supportive audience may elicit poorer performance on challenging tasks
o Having your family at your first piano recital likely will not boost your performance
- The effect of other people increases with number
o Sometimes the arousal and self-conscious attention created by a large audience
interferes even with well-learned, automatic behaviours, such as speaking
Given extreme pressure, we’re vulnerable to choking stutterers tend to
stutter more in front of larger audiences than when speaking to just one or
two people
- Being in a crowd also intensifies positive or negative responses
o When they sit close together, friendly people are liked even more, and unfriendly
people are disliked even more
o E.g., Freedman and colleagues had an accomplice listen to a humour tape or
watch a movie with other subjects
When all sat close together, the accomplice could more readily induce
them to laugh and clap
o Perhaps you’ve noticed that a class of 35 students feels warmer and livelier in a
room that seats just 35 students than spread around in a room that seats 100
This occurs partly because when others are close by, we are more likely
to notice and join in their laugher or clapping
o But crowding also enhances arousal
o E.g., Evans tested 10-person groups either in a room 7x10 or 3x4 meters
Compared to those in the large room, those densely packed had higher
pulse rates and blood pressure (indicating arousal)
Though their performance on simple tasks did not suffer, they made more
errors on more difficult tasks
o Thus, crowding enhances arousal, which facilitates dominant responses
Why Are We Aroused in the Presence of Others?
- What you do well, you will be energized to do best in front of others (unless you become
hyper aroused and self-conscious)
- What is it about other people that creates arousal?
- Evaluation apprehension;
o Evaluation apprehension: concern for how others are evaluating us
o E.g., Cottrell and his associates examined social facilitation for the pronunciation
of non-sense syllables and well learned easy to pronounce syllables
They blindfolded observers, supposedly in preparation for a perception
In contrast to the effect of the watching audience, the mere presence of
these blindfolded people did not boost well-practiced responses
o The enhancement of dominant responses is stronger when people think they are
being evaluated
E.g., Worringham and Messick found that joggers on a jogging path sped
up as they came upon a women seated on the grass if she was facing
them rather than sitting with her back turned
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o Evaluation apprehension also helps explain:
Why people perform best when their coactor is slightly superior
Why arousal lessens when a high-status group is diluted by adding
people those opinions don’t matter to us
Why people who worry most about others’ evaluations are the ones most
affected by their presence
Why social-facilitation effects are greatest when the others are unfamiliar
and hard to keep an eye on
o The self-consciousness we feel when being evaluated can also interfere with
behaviours that we perform best automatically
- Driven by distraction
o E.g., Sanders, Baron, and Moore theorized that when people wonder how
coactors are doing or how an audience is reacting, they get distracted
This conflict between paying attention to others and paying attention to
the task overloads the cognitive system, causing arousal
People are indeed “driven by distraction”
- Mere presence
o E.g., Zajonc believed that the mere presence of others, that is simply having
other people around, produces some arousal even without evaluation
apprehension or arousing distraction
He notes that even animals as lowly as cockroaches show social
facilitation effects
Social Loafing: Do Individuals Exert Less Effort in a Group?
- Social facilitation usually occurs when people work toward individual foals and when
their efforts can be individually evaluated
- These situations parallel some everyday work situations, but not those where people
cooperatively pool their efforts toward a common goal and where individuals are not
accountable for their efforts
- E.g., tug-of-war, organizational fundraising
Many Hands Make Light Work
- Social loafing: the tendency for people to exert less effort when they pool their efforts
toward a common goal than when they are individually accountable
- E.g., Ingham conducted a study in which he had blindfolded participants and asked them
to tug as hard as they could
o He found that participants pulled 18% harder when they thought they were
pulling alone than when they were told they were pulling with others helping
- E.g., Harkins et al., conducted a similar experiment and observed that the noise
produced by 6 people shouting or clapping as loud as they could was less than 3 times
that produced by one person alone
- E.g., Sweeney had students pump exercise bicycles and found that they did so more
energetically when they knew they were being individually monitored than when they
thought their output was being pooled with that of other riders
o In the group condition, people were tempted to free-ride on the group effort
- Free-ride: people who benefit from the group but give little in return
- When being observed increases evaluation concerns social facilitation
- When being lost in a crowd decreases evaluation concerns social loafing
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