Group Behavior in Social Psychology: Definition & Influences

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  • 0:53 Social Facilitation
  • 1:02 Social Loafing
  • 1:47 Drive Theory
  • 2:32 Group Think
  • 2:42 Irving Janis
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Polly Peterson
Do individuals behave differently in groups than they would on their own? How do group dynamics affect our decision-making skills? You'll learn about the benefits and potential pitfalls than can come from belonging to a group.

Social psychology is the science of group behavior, which considers the way other people influence our conduct. How do groups affect behavior, and what are our roles in these groups?


First, let's examine how group dynamics affect productivity. Have you ever noticed that an audience can increase your performance? Fear of evaluation and comparison with others in the group can be motivating.

Imagine running a marathon away from home where the level of competition is higher than you're used to. You'd probably step up your performance and finish in less time than you expected. This tendency is known as social facilitation, where even the mere presence of other competitors spurs you to perform better than you would if you were running the same course on your own.

On the flip side, social loafing can occur when responsibility for failure and success is distributed to the group. This relief of individual accountability leads some members to decrease productivity and not work as hard on group projects as they would on their own.

Say you and your co-workers are trying to reach an office-wide sales record. As you work towards this common goal, the daily tallies show that halfway through the month, the target number has almost been reached thanks to your excellent sales team. You're all going to win a trip to Hawaii for the office party. Do you slack off, confident in your team's sure win? Do you think you'd perform at a higher level if individual sales numbers were being assessed and only the top ten salespeople were going to Hawaii?

Zajonc developed drive theory
Robert Zajonc

Social psychologist Robert Zajonc explained social facilitation and social loafing as two different reactions to group influence as variations in an individual's responses to physiological arousal. Zajonc's drive theory states that if a task is easy and you already perform it well, the presence of others will tend to boost your performance. However, if a task is difficult and challenges your abilities, it's more likely that the presence of group competition will lead to social loafing.

Group Decisions

When it comes time for the group to determine a plan of action, how do group dynamics affect the decision-making process?

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