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Determinants of social facilitation in humans Criddle, William David

Abstract

The central purpose of the study was to examine Cottrell's (1968) hypothesis that anticipation of evaluation is the major determinant of social facilitation in human subjects. A secondary purpose was to examine the effects of three types of observation: by an audience physically present, by an audience behind a one-way screen and by no audience other than a tape recorder. Thus the two independent variables in the study were evaluation and type of observation. It was hypothesized that social facilitation would occur only in evaluation conditions. It was also hypothesized that the greatest amount of social facilitation would occur in the condition with the audience physically present and the least amount would occur in the condition with no audience other than the tape recorder. Screened observation was expected to yield an intermediate amount. The experimental task was a pseudo-recognition task which had been used in previous social facilitation studies. This task set previously trained strong and weak habits into competition with each other. Habits were established by degree of exposure of nonsense words to subjects. Subjects called out words supposedly flashed on a screen for a fraction of a second. Since recognition of each word was made impossible by using a blurred exposure presented upside-down and backwards, subjects' responses were solely a function of prior differential training. Social faciIitation was defined as a differential increase in the emission of dominant responses at the expense of subordinate responses. The resulting measure of social facilitation was the differences among groups in terms of the slope of the frequency of response-habit strength functions. This definition of social facilitation was in line with Zajonc's (1965) application of Hullian Theory to account for the phenomenon. Evaluation was manipulated by introducing three observers as evaluators and having them evaluate subjects' performance, or, by introducing them as passive spectators and making their evaluation of the task impossible. Observation was manipulated by having the observers, when used, sit behind a one-way screen or sit in the experimental room. The subjects were 120 male undergraduate volunteers. The results were analyzed with a multifactor repeated measures analysis of variance and the slopes of the response-habit strength functions of each experimental group were examined. None of the interactions critical to the experimental hypotheses reached statistical significance. The habit strength by evaluation by observation interaction approached statistical significance. The slopes of the response-habit strength functions were consistently steeper for evaluated conditions than for unevaluated conditions. The slope of the direct observation evaluated condition was flattest and that of the no observation evaluated condition was steepest. The general trends of the data supported the evaluation hypothesis in terms of the magnitude of the various slopes of the response-habit strength functions. Within each observation condition, and overall, the slope of the habit strength-response emission function of those subjects evaluated was consistently steeper than that of non-evaluated subjects. These results suggested that anticipation of evaluation may be a key determinant of social facilitation. The trends of the data were exactly opposite to the predictions of the type of observation hypotheses. The least amount of social facilitation occurred with direct observation. Considerably more and approximately equal amounts of social facilitation occurred in both the screened and no observation conditions. It appeared that hidden evaluators may have a greater effect on performance than those physically present. Theoretical, methodological and practical implications were discussed. The results were compared to those of related studies. The problem of manipulating evaluation effectively was examined. Implications for the use of indirect observation methods in clinical settings were discussed and suggestions for future research were made.

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