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Social Facilitation

Definition

Social facilitation refers to the general phenomenon that physical and cognitive performance is improved when other people are present (and possibly watching the performer). Psychologists use the term social facilitation/inhibition to indicate that performance is sometimes facilitated while being observed, and other times inhibited in the presence of others. The critical factor for determining whether performance is facilitated or inhibited is whether the task that the individual is performing is well learned (simple) or novel (difficult). Research has shown that well-learned tasks are facilitated under observation, whereas novel tasks are inhibited under observation.

History and Background

One of the first documented studies in social psychology appeared in Norman Triplett's 1898 article “The Dynamogenic Factors in Pacemaking and Competition,” which described observational data from competitive cyclists and ...

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