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PSY220H1 Lecture Notes - Robert Zajonc, Cockroach, Social Loafing

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Jennifer Fortune

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Lecture VII March 5th
Intra and Inter group Relations
Intra-group refers to relations between members of one group, while inter-group refers to the
relations between members of two different groups.
Why do we study groups?
Simply having other people around can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. The
presence of others does not have to be actual in order to exert influence; it can be implied or
Triplett, who published the first study in social psychology (1898), studied social facilitation.
Remember that he noted how the presence of other people influence behaviour; namely that
children wound up their fishing rods faster if they went up against another child than when they
went against a clock. From this experiment we can take away the idea that the presence of other
people can improve our own performance. This is known as social facilitation. However, some
research has shown that the presence of others can also degrade performance. This is called social
Thus, the presence of others simply arouses people and there happen to be different degrees of
arousal. For complex tasks, the optimal level of arousal is lower while for simple tasks the optimal
level is higher.
Robert Zajonc proposed an explanation for both facilitation and inhibition effects. His idea was
that the presence of others increased arousal. When the task at hand was well practiced and known
(task is dominant), then that arousal leads to social facilitation. If the task is new, unpractised, or
novel, then that arousal leads to social inhibition.
The Dominant Response is the action that is most likely to occur in a situation or on a task when
the individual is alone. A dominant response can either be negative or positive, and that negativity
or positivity will be heightened by the presence of others. For example is the dominant response is
perfection, the presence of an audience will most likely make the performance of said action ideal,
boost you up to the next level, and cause social facilitation. If making mistakes is the dominant
response on the other hand, the presence of an audience will increase the chances of said mistakes
and degrade your overall performance, leading to social inhibition. In either case (social facilitation
or inhibition), the dominant response is what matters. Furthermore, it is the audience that will
exacerbate the dominant response, whether it is perfection or mistake making.
Basically; the Presence of Others leads to Arousal, which leads to an increase in chances that the
Dominant Response will occur. If the Dominant Response is Correct (positive/perfection), then
Performance Increases and Social Facilitation occurs. If the Dominant Response is Incorrect
(negative/mistakes), then Performance Decreases and Social Inhibition occurs.
There is an ideal level of arousal for any task. In difficult tasks, for example, you do not want to be
feeling energetic and hyped up, but calm and focused. While the ideal level of arousal for simple
tasks is the exact opposite. However, this could depend and vary individual to individual.

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We also see social facilitation and inhibition occur in animals.
Zajonc, Heingartner, and Herman (1969)
Looked at facilitation and inhibition in cockroaches. These cockroaches were taught to run a
simple maze which consisted of running down the end of a tube for some food. In the simple maze,
cockroaches performed faster when another cockroach was with them in the maze (aka social
facilitation). The researchers created a more difficult maze afterwards. In this case, the
cockroaches were faster when they were alone, and slower when there was another cockroach with
them (aka social inhibition).
Inside Groups
How do we behave within a group?
How do groups form?
Think about stage 1 of the Robber’s Cave experiment. The experimenters wanted to develop group
cohesion (the degree to which members feel close to other people in the group) and a strong group
identity. What made them, or makes people in general, feel “groupy” (i.e., how are groups
formed)? Consider the Halloween Party example from lecture. Groups feel “groupy” when it is
obvious to the in-group and out-group members who belongs to which group. In other words, there
is an obvious us versus them distinction.
What is a group?
A group is when two or more people are interacting and influencing one another. Typically people
in a group share a common identity, goal, work together, and depend on each other. Thus, groups
serve a variety of functions.
They are favoured by evolution: humans are oriented to live in small groups and also tend to do
better in said groups. Groups are also important to cultures.
Groups give advantages in the animal kingdom via: Safety in numbers, Vigilance (it takes only one
member to notice the presence of danger and alert the others), Permits sharing of resources
(specialization of skill), Working together (which facilitates power and increases the chances of
getting good resources).
To humans, groups lead to and provide Role Differentiation and the division of labour (creation
of experts, people do different things, specialize in one area, assembly line example), the
Accumulation of Knowledge (acquiring core knowledge, where no one member has to know
everything, something that is passed on throughout the generations, is added unto, and thus
increases the sustainability and presence of the group in the future), and Economic Exchange
(people can trade personal input, work, and trade skills for another persons input, work, and trade
skills; this means that people do not have to be self sufficient).
Thus, in a group, people can be better than the sum of its parts. Usually, groups tend to be and do
more (achieve more, etc) than the individual could on his own. However, sometimes groups make
us worse off. When is it the case that groups do this and what causes it?
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