Script: The Basics of Psychology for Christian Ministry
Homework Assignments

3.4.1 Group influences on individual performance

The presence of others has a stimulating effect. For instance, being watched or even cheered on by a crowd can enhance the performance of an athlete in a competition. Similarly, performing artists draw from the energy of their audiences. The empowering impact resulting from the presence of others is called social facilitation. However, this phenomenon only occurs on tasks that are either well-learned or relatively simple. Being watched while trying to accomplish an unfamiliar task can have the opposite effect. Think of yourself standing in front of the class trying to solve a difficult math problem on the whiteboard. The anxiety of being judged or pitied interferes with more complex thinking and reasoning processes.

Working together in a group also tends to hamper individual productivity, a phenomenon called social loafing. This happens in particular when the contribution of each team member to the final outcome is not recognizable. Rather than pushing themselves, individual members of the group tend to be overly reliant on their teammates. Less confident members may feel self-conscious and defer to others they see as more competent and capable. Some, who are less ambitious assume that the typical high achievers will step up to the plate. The more dedicated members, in turn, might become frustrated that others are not pulling their weight. The adverse effects of social loafing on individual motivation can be mitigated by explicitly assigning each group member with a clearly identifiable task.