The aim of this essay is to show that it has been proven by psychological research that “however much we might like to believe otherwise, when in the presence of others our behaviour changes”. In this many issues within psychology will be discussed to illustrate the effect that the presence of others have. The original definition for social facilitation was “the tendency of people to perform simple or well-earned tasks better when others are present”. This has been modified to the current definition of “the strengthening of dominant (prevalent, likely) responses of others”.
Tripplet (1898), cited in (Myers, D G, Social Psychology, New York, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002), conducted one of psychology’s first laboratory experiments. In this children were told to wind a fishing reel as fast as they could. The findings showed that they wound faster in the presence of others than when alone. Research after this found that the presence of others also improved the speed at which people can do multiplication problems or crossing out designated letters.
It was also found by (F. W Allport, 1920, Dashiell, 1930, Travis 1925) cited in (Myers, D G, Social Psychology, New York, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002) that to improve simple motor tasks e. g. keeping a metal stick in contact with a dime sized disk on a moving turn-table. However, other studies cited in (Myers, D G, Social Psychology, New York, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2002) have shown that more complicated tasks e. g. learning nonsense syllables, completing a maze and performing multiplication problems (Dashiell 1930, Pessin 1933, Pessin and Husband 1933) that in these cases the presence of others has a disruptive effect.
These two theories were seen as disjointed until social psychologist Robert Zajonc pondered the thought that these two theories could be used together to give a fuller explanation. In 1965 he worked on the theory from experimental psychology that arousal enhances performance on easy tasks for which the most likely “dominant” response is the correct one e. g. people are likely to solve easy anagrams fastest when they are anxious. In complex tasks the correct answer is not dominant increased arousal is said to increase the chance of incorrect response.