chapter  3
16 Pages

Social Motivation and Culture

The study of social motivation was begun by Triplett (1898), who observed that sport bicyclists pedaled with greater speed when they rode in the company of other cyclists than they did when riding alone. This study introduced to psychology the phenomenon of social facilitation of performance, in which the presence of others produces an increase in individual motivation. Triplett studied situations in which the other persons present performed a task in concert with the individual; these became known as coaction settings. In 1904, Meumann reported the first study in which social facilitation was achieved by a passive audience that merely observed the individual perform (Cottrell, 1972). Several years later, Ringelmann reported a

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Social facilitation TH E modern era of research on social facilitation began with a major theoretical paper by Zajonc (1965). Attempting to explain the mixed evidence from previous studies, Zajonc proposed that (1) the presence of others elicits a drive-like state of arousal, (2) drive multiplies with habit strength for all responses in a situation, increasing the probability of a dominant response relative to a subordinate one, and (3) the dominant response is more likely to be the correct one on easy tasks than on a difficult ones. From this, Zajonc concluded that the presence of others leads to social facilitation of performance on easy or overlearned tasks but to social inhibition of performance on difficult ones. The decade following the appearance of Zajonc's paper yielded numerous experimental investigations of social facilitation, most of them animated by Zajonc's arguments. Some sought to test his viewpoint and others to challenge it with alternative explanations. In 1977 Geen and Gange reviewed this literature and concluded that at that time the most parsimonious explanation for both social facilitation and social inhibition was the drive-theoretical viewpoint. In the years since that review the situation has changed, and today such a confident conclusion of the primacy of drive theory is no longer warranted.