Social Facilitation Social Inhibition

Did you notice that the speed of an athlete increases, in the presence of more competitors. In addition have you noticed sometimes, that your work performance decreases significantly in the presence of more coworkers?

Above scenarios can be explained by a concept in social psychology called social facilitation and social inhibition.

What is social psychology?

In social psychology scientists study how human behavior is shaped by the real or imagined presence of others. In fact most of our behavior can be explained by the situation we are in. But humans tend to overate or overestimate influence of personality and character and underestimate the influence of situations or circumstances. This tendency is called the Fundamental Attribution error. In fact most of the concepts in social psychology are based on this simple but important principle.

What is social facilitation?

Social facilitation is defined as “boosting effects of co actors and audiences on performance”. It is one of the earliest concepts identified in social psychology. In fact it was theorized by Norman Triplett in 1898. After that this theory was proven without doubt by many psychologists in various situations. In addition social facilitation was observed in many animals as well.   

When is social facilitation seen?

Social facilitation occurs when the task is simple and well learned. For an example, Running is a simple and well learned task for an athlete. So in the presence of others (co actors) his or her running speed increases.

In addition social facilitation increases when the co actors are competing with the participant. However mere presence of another human being does not produce much social facilitation. In addition, if the co actors perform worse than the participant, social facilitation decreases significantly.  

What is social inhibition?

Social inhibition is defined as “derailing effects of performance in the presence of co actors and audiences”.

Social inhibition occurs when the task at hand is complex and not well learned.  Here speed and accuracy of the task decreases significantly with presence of others or co actors. Social inhibition specially occurs when you are doing a group work which is new and complex.

How can we use these concepts in everyday life?

* Go well prepared to your board meetings or group discussions, so tasks you do there become simple and well learned for you.

* Do not expect to learn complex new concepts when you are in a group. Always study them thoroughly alone and go to a group discussion to clarify specific points.

* If you are a sportsman/woman, always practice with others.

Sources and further reading

Introduction to psychology – Atkinson and Hilgard