Social Faciliation

People seem to act differently when other people are around. Is there a reason for this? Psychologist, Robert Zajonc (1965,1980) thinks so. He discovered that “the presence of others increases arousal, which can affect performance in different ways, depending on the task at hand” (249). This is termed the Social facilitation theory, which relates with how the presence of other people affect our behavior.

Zajonc believes there are three steps to the presence of performance. First, the company of other people causes a physical arousal, livens up the action. Secondly, the person will perform the “dominant response” (the most simple response to the situation). Lastly, Zajonc thinks the quality of the person’s action depends on the kind of task they’re doing (249-250).

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Therefore, the complete definition of social facilitation is a “process whereby the presence of others enhances performance on easy tasks but impairs the performance on difficult tasks” (251). Two personal examples will demonstrate both areas of this concept.

In high school I tried out for the volley ball team. I never played before besides in gym class, but to my surprise I made varsity. Practices were vigorous and stressful, yet after a few weeks I had the basics of the sport. More importantly, my coach thought my powerful serve was going to help the team a lot that season.

The first home game the stands were packed. Most of my friends, my parents and my boyfriend all sat waiting anxiously to see me at my new game. Well, as we were huddling before the game I saw my name on the starting roster. I was like, “you have to be kidding me.” Not to mention, I was the first player to serve.

I get in the game and I hear people cheering for me in the bleachers. Smiling, I turn to them and I begin to sweat feeling a wave of intense energy come over me (physiological arousal). Now, I grab the ball throw it in the air and smacked it with such force that it whizzed over the net, across the whole length of the gym, and out the door and finally slammed into someone in the auditorium at band practice.

The dominant response was to hit the ball as hard as I could because my coach said I had a powerful serve. I guess I went overboard. It was a good laugh though.

Another example of social facilitation is just recently I went for my kick boxing certification in order to become an instructor. Kick boxing is an activity that I enjoy and it comes naturally to me. During the testing period there were judges and many of the participants were really nervous. I just got a lot of energy and I passed the challenge with flying colors. The more people that were around the better my performance of the kicks and punches. In relation to the social facilitation theory the easy task helped the outcome unlike my first serve in high school volley ball game.

Brehm, S. S. S., Kassin, S. M., Fein, S. (1999). Social Psychology, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Works Cited
Brehm, S. S. S., Kassin, S. M., Fein, S. (1999). Social Psychology, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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Social Faciliation. (2018, Jul 02). Retrieved from