Social loafing is the tendency for people to reduce their efforts and work less hard on a task when working in a group than when working individually. It represents a potential productivity barrier to any group or team in which individual efforts are combined into a group product. Thus, it is important to design groups carefully to avoid the potential for reduced individual motivation. This entry describes the background of work on social loafing, its key principles, several theories that attempt to explain it, and some related issues.

History and Background

The motivational effects of groups on individuals have long been of interest to social and organizational psychologists. In perhaps the earliest social-psychological studies, conducted in the 1880s, Max Ringelmann designed a rope-pulling apparatus that allowed him ...

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