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Social Loafing

 

Explanations > Theories > Social Loafing

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

This is the tendency for people to perform worse on simple tasks, yet better at complex tasks when they are in the presence of others.

This appears to be a direct contradiction to Social Facilitation, but can be explained by the differing circumstances in which it occurs. In particular, when we are working in a group, it can be easier to conceal laziness when working in a group of people who are working together.

The key here is that the loafer is not worried about being evaluated. This can also be an attraction of being an acknowledge expert or in a position of authority: although it may take time to climb the mountain, you may be able to relax once you have got there.

However, when we are being evaluated, such as when working on a team task, we will work hard to ensure nobody can criticize us for not pulling our weight.

People who have less concern for groups are more likely to be social loafers, such as men and Western societies in general.

Research

Max Ringelmann (1913) found that when a group of men were asked to pull on a rope, they each pulled less hard than when pulling alone.

Example

Clapping at concert need not make much noise (saving your painful hands) and nobody will notice.

So what?

Using it

To avoid social loafing, make sure everyone in a group knows that they can easily be evaluated by others. If you are a social loafer, then by all means find work where nobody can point at you and say you are not pulling your weight.

Defending

When working in a team, ensure there are no social loafers, either by discussing the principle (prodding consciences) or ensuring nobody can hide in the woodwork.

See also

Social Facilitation, Social Norms

References

Ringelmann (1913), Moede (1927), Williams and Harkins (1979), Karau and Williams (1993)

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