Is there really strength in numbers?
Not according to social loafing. The more people there are, the less hard they work. In Social Psychology: Theories, Research, and Applications, Robert S. Feldman writes about social loafing.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Social loafing happens when people think that the rest of the group isn’t pulling their weight.
- If you think others are less skilled or less motivated, you’ll work less hard.
- Make individuals feel responsible for the group’s results.
People are Apt to Work Less Hard in Groups
Feldman writes that people work less hard in groups because of reduced social pressure:
“Bibb Latane (1981) suggests that these results are indicative of a phenomenon known as social loafing. Social loafing occurs during a shared group activity when there is a decrease in individual effort due to the social pressure of other persons. It happens because social pressure to perform is, in a sense, dissipated by the presence of others; an individual feels as if the pressure is shared by the other people. Hence, people are apt to work less hard in groups due to the perception of reduced social pressure to produce.”
More is Less
Feldman writes that the more people there are, the less hard they pull:
“The results were unequivocal: the more people pulling, the less hard the average individual pulled. When alone, the subjects averaged a pulling strength of 63 kilograms, but this average fell to 53 kilograms with two co-pullers and only 31 kilograms per person with groups of eight.”
Why Does Social Loafing Occur
According to Feldman, there’s a few reasons why social loafing occurs:
- People perceive that others in a group are less motivated or less skillful than themselves, and this leads them to reduce their own output.
- Social loafing may be caused by participants choosing goals that are less ambitious when others were present working under the assumption that the task will be easier when others are involved. With lower goals, you expect less effort.
- Individuals feel that their own efforts are less closely linked to any potential outcomes in a group setting than when they are alone.
How to Combat Social Loafing
How do you reduce the possibility of social loafing in collective situations? Feldman writes that you need to make individuals feel responsible for the group’s performance:
“The most obvious solution is to structure group situations so that reach group member feels personally responsible for the outcomes of the group as a whole. One specific technique would be to promote group norms that emphasize the individual’s contribution to group performance.”
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Photo by kjarrett.