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Social Sciences: Reflection Essay

Social Sciences

Social analysis of the process of management, group and organizational decision-making shows that a very important and often decisive role in the implementation processes is played by strategies and mechanisms related to the achievement of consensus. Every group deals with the facts of the reality when every member of it not only does not work to achieve the social welfare but also fails to facilitate the group in the course of their interaction and common work

The aim of social facilitation is to increase the speed or efficiency of an individual’s activity through updating the image in his mind (perception, representation, etc.) of another person (or group of people) acting as an opponent or observer of the actions of the individual. The opposite effect is the social inhibition that implies the decrease in productivity and quality of the individual’s activity (Hart & Burton, 2013). However, subsequent studies have shown that the presence of others always stimulates the individual to a more efficient action. I noticed that, in some cases, other people’s negative impact on the individual raises the efficiency of any action.

These studies received new impetus through the work of social psychologist Robert Zajonc (1965) who misappropriated the ideas of Hull-Spence behavior model to clarify special social effects on job performance. He was the first to put forward the suggestion that the effect of the facilitation in the case of a simple mechanical activity and inhibition is intellectually challenging. To support this idea, he relied on the well-known principle that the excitement is always strengthened by the dominant reaction. Increased excitement favors simple tasks for which the most likely “dominant” reaction is the right decision. From this perspective, I think that people quickly unravel simple anagrams when excited. When it comes to performing complex tasks in which the correct answer is not so obvious and, therefore, is not a dominant trend, excessive arousal increases the probability of a wrong decision. The excited people coped with the more difficult anagrams worse than those who are at rest.

How do these principles solve the mystery of social facilitation? It is reasonable to agree that, as evidenced by a number of data, the presence of other excited people makes them more energetic. If social agitation enhances the dominant reaction, it should favor the implementation of the actions and interfere with difficult tasks. In this case, the known experimental data do not seem to contradict each other.

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Winding the fishing line or solving simple tasks of multiplication – all these are simple actions or reactions that are well-learned by a person after the birth (i.e. dominated). Naturally, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the presence of outsiders “spurs” the performance of our familiar and learned actions. The acquisition of the new material, passing the maze, and solving complex mathematical problems – all these are the more difficult tasks the correct answer to which is not so obvious from the beginning. In such situations, the presence of strangers increases the number of incorrect answers. In both cases, there “works” the same general rule: agitation favors the dominant reactions.

It should be noted that in recent years, along with the theory of Zajonc (1965), there appeared other points of view on the nature and essence of the phenomenon of “facilitation – inhibition”. One of them is the so-called model of distraction / conflict. At the heart of this model is the idea that the presence of other people always attracts our attention resulting in an internal conflict between the two main tendencies manifested in almost any situation of public activity: (1) paying attention to the audience and (2) focusing on the most problem (Cundill, Cumming, Biggs, & Fabricius, 2012). This conflict can increase excitement which further assists or hinders the task depending on whether it is associated with a correct decision or the dominant reaction (Hart & Burton, 2013). In addition, such a conflict may cause a cognitive overload if the required efforts to pay attention to the challenges and other people exceed the level of the individual’s cognitive abilities.

Moreover, the manifestation and severity of the phenomenon of “facilitation – inhibition” is dependent on several factors. From social and psychological point of view, the effect of the level of group development is of particular interest in this regard. Practice shows that in the high-level socio-psychological type of development, the presence of others and interactions with them having clearly expresses facilitative influence on the process of challenging intellectual activity (Hart & Burton, 2013; Moser & Dilling, 2011).

This is especially true when working on a challenging task, not only non-obvious but also the “only correct” solution which requires a creative approach. Moreover, based on the recent research in the field of psychology of management in the modern conditions, the availability of a complete team is not only useful but often an essential prerequisite for effective solutions to such problems.

Thus, according to the basic principles of sociology and psychology of groups, it is clear that we react to the presence of other people in a certain way. Nevertheless, does their presence excite us and what are its implications? If a person is sick at heart and is tormented by sad thoughts, his/her friend who is near at this moment can listen and help to sooth anxiety and pain. However, Lambert, Payne, Jacoby, Shaffer, Chasteen, and Khan (2003) argued that in the presence of strangers, people experience stress, greater sweating in addition to being nervous and tense. Even a friendly audience may make the person requiring the full-time commitment to perform poorly.

From my own experience, I can confirm that in stressful conditions, the audience only exacerbates the situation. Prior to joining the university being 9 years old, I was going to music school. During exams and concerts, the more people were in the room, the harder it was for me calm my emotions and overcome the fear of making a mistake or forgetting something. Naturally, when I played in the presence of smaller and more “familiar” groups of people, such thoughts have never visited me. In many cases, numerous spectators and excitement caused by their presence caused problems even when implementing the automated skills like speech. Experiencing the extreme pressure, we can very easily start to stutter, forget words, confuse proposals, etc. Each of us can remember a similar case from his/her life when it was necessary to speak before a large audience; however, because of the excitement, one has forgotten much of what he wanted to say. That is why many public people prepare in advance mini-notes so that if something happens, they can peep and remember what they planned to say.

Thus, in the first case, the presence of observers often leads to the decreased quality, and in the second – to the apparent capacity of quantitative indicators of its implementation (Hirst & Echterhoff, 2012). Still, it is said that if you possess any skills, the presence of spectators “spurs” you to demonstrate your skills. If you are overexcited and too concerned about how and what you do, on the contrary, this reduces the effectiveness of your actions (Hart & Burton, 2013). However, in daily life, it brings me difficulty as in such circumstances it might be impossible at all. Why does the presence of strange people excites us and leads to such consequences? There are three reasons, each of which has an experimental explanation.

Further research into the effects of social facilitation and inhibition led scientists to conclude that their expression depends on the strength of psychological pressure on a person, which in this situation is the presence of the people attending the event (Hart & Burton, 2013). Having carefully studied this question, scientists Gintis and Helbing (2015) found it necessary to differentiate between similar situations having a large psychological pressure on a person. As a result, they identified and described six different situations related to the “presence” of other people and thus having a psychological influence on the person. These situations are described below.

Gradually, social psychologist Sovacool (2014) began looking for an answer to another question: under what conditions the group as a whole is able to surpass the achievements of the amount equal to the quantity, but the independently employed individuals. However, with the accumulation of the experimental data, it became apparent that the universal laws are common to all groups without exception. Groups differed quite significantly; therefore, the first experiments in the social psychology of group effectiveness have not been able to identify distinct patterns of influence of groups on an individual, for instance, uncover resistant mechanisms of the phenomenon of social facilitation and social inhibition in groups.

Thus, I can conclude that people react to the presence of each other unconsciously, and the factors that determine the extent of the reaction are as follows. First, it is the number of people around them. The exposure to other people of an individual and his work increases with their number. The man is much more excited when in front of a large number of people. Massiveness increases anxiety, which, in turn, exacerbates the dominant reaction. The second factor is the sympathy or antipathy in the inter-group relationships. Placing a person in a circle of people who sympathize with him/her or vice versa does not have a favorable effect on the degree of excitation and the efficiency of its operations. For sure, when interacting with people who are nice to each other, the efficiency and effectiveness of their interaction is much higher than in the groups where antipathy is obvious. Third, one should consider how the people around the person are important to him/her. Social stimulation and the degree of social facilitation and /or inhibition depend on the importance of the people surrounding a person – they are more significant than the level of excitement, and emotion is stronger, or vice versa. Last, there should be considered the degree of spatial proximity between people. Social arousal is defined by how close to each other people are placed (Gintis & Helbing, 2015; Frith & Frith, 2012).

Nevertheless, a collective effort does not always lead to the weakening of the relations. Sometimes, the goal is so vital and important that everyone makes every effort thus building the team spirit and supporting the common goal. Some evidence convinces us that this is indeed the case. People in the group are less idle if the task is challenging, complex, attractive, or fascinating. Collectively solving the difficult and interesting problem, people may perceive their common efforts as an indispensable contribution to their own goal. Groups much are smaller and united if their members are friends but not strangers to each other.

Therefore, although social loafing comes when people work together and at the same time feel the individual responsibility, yet we cannot say that when there are more hands, the less work is done.

In addition to the above effects of social facilitation and inhibition, there is a third one –  social loafing (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Social loafing implies the tendency of people to make less effort in the event when they are joining forces for a common goal, rather than in the case of individual responsibility. There is the same principle: when the observation increases the fear of evaluation, the result will be social facilitation or inhibition; when the abandonment of the crowd reduces the fear of evaluation, the result will be social loafing.

In conclusion, I should note that to date, the phenomena of social facilitation, inhibition, and laziness are relevant, important and necessary for the teaching and learning topics by not only sociologist and psychologists but also people of other professions. Knowledge of the characteristics and subtleties of these phenomena could help many to find the levers of control to own their behavior and the behavior of other people and spur at the right time to achieve the most productive results. Additionally, just because there are students in the class who are already taking charge, it is simply pitiful that other members see that as an excuse to let somebody do their job while they are just idly watching and taking credit for hardworking team members who do all the work.