PSY 220 CH.12
• The actions of one man burning himself to protest the way he was treated by the
government in Tunisia led to countless people being angered by the government. It led to
their president fleeing. Inspiration from this success led to protests in Cairo, then Libya.
All were aided by social media and all started with the actions of one person.
• Only through collective action among individuals was all this possible.
The Nature and Purpose of Group Living
• Many animals live in groups, though not all do.
• Thought that humans live in groups because life with others offered our ancestors
protection, efficiency in food gathering, child care assistance, and defense against human
• Group has been described as a collection of individuals who have relations to one another
that make them interdependent to some significant degree.
• Being in a group is sort of like a continuum depending on the level of interdependence.
• Looking into the question of whether people’s presence helps or hinders your efforts.
• Norman Triplett observed that the fastest bicycling times occurred when people were
competing against each other on the same course at the same time.
• Norman decided to look more into it, conducting what is widely considered the first
social psychology experiment. He invited 40 children to a lab and asked them to turn a
fishing reel as fast as they could. In 3 trials they did this alone, and in another 3 they did
it alongside another child. Found that they tended to turn the wheel faster in the presence
of other people.
• Social facilitation: Initially a term for enhanced performance in the presence of others;
now a broader term for the effect – positive or negative – of the presence of others on
• Following experiments were conducted. Was found that the same effects were obtained
when the others present were not doing the same thing, but were merely present as an
audience of passive observers.Also noted that the same effect was observed in a vast
number of animal species.
• Floyd Allport soon followed up with opposite findings.Asking Harvard and Radcliffe
students to present an argument in a 5-minute period. Higher-quality arguments were
obtained when working alone than with a group.
Resolving the Contradictions
• The effects on other people’s presence on performances can vary... Not a satisfying
• Zajonc argued that the mere presence of others tends to facilitate performance on simple
or well-learned tasks, but hinder performance on difficult or novel tasks. • Has 3 components to the theory: First, the mere presence of others makes a person more
aroused. Second, arousal tends to make a person more ‘rigid’in the sense that the person
becomes even more inclined to do what he or she is already inclined to do (dominant
response). The third component of Zajonc’s theory links the increase in dominant
response tendencies to the facilitation of simple tasks and the inhibition of complex tasks.
• Dominant response: In an individual’s hierarchy of responses, the response he or she is
most likely to make.
Testing the Theory
• Test involving cockroaches who like the dark. Shine a light on them when they are put
into one of 2 mazes. 1 maze is simple, they simply flee (dominant response) to the dark
corner. 1 maze is complex, it involves turns and fleeing. Had the cockroaches run the
mazes either alone or with another cockroach. Results were that the cockroaches running
the simple maze would get to the goal quicker when together than when alone.Also that
those running the complex maze together would take longer to reach the dark chamber.
Co-acting versus Mere Presence
• Zajonc filled the mazes with Plexiglas boxes where cockroaches would be there
observing but not running the maze. Results were as predicted: the presence of the
observing cockroaches facilitated performance on the simple maze but inhibited
performance on the complex maze.
• Real world experiment: Observing pool players performance. Those who are skilled in
pool would be facilitated, those who were not skilled in pool would be hindered by the
presence of the observers.
Mere Presence or EvaluationApprehension?
• Evaluation apprehension: People’s concern about how they might appear in the eyes of
others – that is, about being evaluated.
• Mainly accepted Zajonc’s theory, only disputed part is that the mere presence of people
increases arousal. Instead some believe that evaluation apprehension is what affects the
Testing for EvaluationApprehension
• To evaluate this experimentally, there must be 3 conditions: 1 with the subject performing
alone, one with the subject performing in front of an evaluative audience, and 1 with the
subject performing in front of an audience that cannot evaluate the subject’s performance.
• Study: Participants given nonsense words to pronounce. Some pronounced more often
than others. Then words flashed on a screen and they were told to say the words, and if
they couldn’t see the words because they appeared too fast, they were to guess. None of
the flashed words were the ones studied, so they always had to guess. (Known as pseudo-
recognition test). Participants performed either alone, in the presence of 2 fellow students
who watched the proceedings attentively, or in the presence of 2 blindfolded ‘observers.’
Looked at how often the participants guessed the dominant word (the one they
pronounced more often). Individuals performing in front of an evaluative audience made
more dominant responses than those performing alone. Those performing in front of a
blindfolded audience did not produce this result of greater use of dominant responses.
Testing for Mere Presence • In previous experiment, although those alone were alone in the physical sense, they
weren’t in the psychological sense. They were aware of being part of an experiment,
therefore they were aware of their actions being judged.
• Hazel Markus did a follow-up experiment to fix this. When participants arrived to take
part in the experiment, they were told to wait in an adjoining room for other participants
to arrive. While there they had to put on the necessary attire for the experiment.Asked to
take off their shoes, put on a pair of lab socks over theirs, put on a pair of oversized lab
shoes, and put on an oversized lab coat. They did this while waiting for the ‘other
participants’to show.After 10 minutes the experimenter came and told them it would be
cancelled due to the no-shows, and to change back. Times were recorded for how fast
participants could put on/take off unfamiliar clothing and their own. These conditions
were done either alone, in the presence of another person waiting, or in the presence of a
repairman. Participants changed their own clothes faster and the novel clothes slower in
the mere presence of another person.
Further Perspectives on Social Facilitation
• Distraction-conflict theory: A theory based on the idea that being aware of another
person’s presence creates a conflict between attending to that person and attending to the
task at hand, and that this attentional conflict is arousing and produces social facilitation
• Some believe that the arousal is what affects performance not simply the presence of
others, but the arousal that comes from being around others.
• At times, if the people present are dissuasive in the person’s abilities, that can hinder their
performance on even the simplest tasks.
• Social loafing: The tendency to expect less effort when working on a group task in which
individual contributions cannot be monitored.
• Study alone when the material is unfamiliar to you. Study in groups when reviewing
• If doing simple, repetitive tasks, allow for group interaction to boost performance.
Group Decision Making
• Alot of research on decision making has been guided by the assumption that decisions
made by groups are typically better than those made by individuals.
• In some contexts, group decisions are no better than individuals. People in a group are
influenced by how they want a decision to come about.
• Sometimes group decision making can be faulty due to pressure to obtain a unanimous
• Groupthink: A kind of faulty thinking by highly cohesive groups in which the critical
scrutiny that should be devoted to the issues at hand is subverted by social pressures to
• Incestuous amplification is defined as a condition in warfare where one only listened to
those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a
situation ripe for miscalculation. Symptoms and Sources of Groupthink
• Janis believes groupthink is a sort of psychological diminishment characterized by a
shallow examination of information, a narrow consideration of alternatives, and a sense
of invulnerability and moral superiority.
• Self-censorship: The tendency to withhold information or opinions in group decisions.
• An intimidating leader can breed self-censorship as can a want for a group consensus.
• Time spent in the group can also affect decisions. If they are just getting together, they
may not want to step on anyone’s shoes by disagreeing with someone, but if they are
together longer, they may not care as much.
• More vigorous group discussion occurs when the leader does not make their preferences
known at the beginning.
• Can avoid the tunnel vision of being focused on coming to a consensus by ensuring that
they are not cut off from outside input.
• Another way to avoid groupthink is to set someone to be the devil’s advocate.
• These practices were shown to work in the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Kennedy
frequently excused himself, brought in outside experts, and appointed people to play
Groupthink in Other Cultures
• In interdependent cultures, the drive towards harmony is more important.
• This can be evident in looking at Japanese scientist who do not voice their opinions often,
leading to a less than stellar discussion on scientific proposals.
Group Decisions: Risky or Conservative?
• Acommon thought about groupthink is that decisions are usually less though out, more
• Popular media culture tends to depict groupthink as being a though out compromise.
• MIT grad student James Stoner put participants in a position where they are making a
decision for a person. (E.g.An engineer is offered a position at a company where if he is
successful, he will end up making more money than he is now, but only if he is
successful. Should he take it?) Participants had to rank the chances that the new company
will be financially sound leading to him succeeding. This was done individually and as a
group afterwards to see the comparisons. The group tended to recommend riskier course
of action than did the individual. When later tested again for individual opinion, they
often stayed true to the group decision.
• Risky shift: The tendency for groups to make riskier decisions than individuals would.
• Again, as with the findings on social facilitation, follow up studies showed opposite
• In situations where other people are involved in the decision that the group is making
(deciding if a father should invest his son’s money in stocks), people are more likely to
choose the safer option, as it is effecting someone besides the person making the
Group Polarization • Group polarization: The tendency for group decisions to be more extreme than those
made by individuals. Whatever way the individuals are leaning, group discussion tends to
make them lean further in that direction.
• Researchers hypothesized that group discussion has the effect of making people more
inclined to go in the direction they are already predisposed to go. Whatever way the
majority of individuals are leaning, the group discussion tends to make them lean farther.
• Research indicates that 2 causes work in concert to produce group polarization. One
involves the persuasiveness of the information brought up during group discussion; the
other involves people’s tendency to try to claim the ‘