Rutgers University

Project Description

Individual Difference in social facilitation

Project Abstract

Humans react to a variety of stimuli in the environment, one of the most significant being the presence of another. Whether the presence of another has a facilitative or a detrimental effect on an individual�s performance has been the subject of much debate for over 100 years (Aiello & Douthitt, 2001). Past research has focused on task complexity as the primary moderating variable in social presence paradigms.
A meta-analysis by Bond and Titus (1983) concluded that social presence only accounts for a small amount of the variance, 1-3%, in simple and complex task performance. The presence of others barely facilitates performance on simple tasks and studies have found that participants were both facilitated and impaired when working on the complex task (Bond & Titus, 1983). Given these effect sizes for the phenomena and the fact that some of the studies were poorly controlled (an experimenter present in the absence condition), attempts to arrive at a single explanation or theory have been unsuccessful (Guerin, 1993) and focus other moderating factors would appear to be fruitful. The present study will focus upon personality and individual variables as moderators the social facilitation effect.
The moderating effects of the �Big-Two� dimensions of personality, extraversion and neuroticism, and their sub-facets (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985) are the focus of investigation. Neuroticism involves increased alertness to stimuli and is likely to cause heighted arousal. Extraverts are known to seek outside stimulation given that they have a lower level of resting brain activity. This study seeks to identify if either of the traits of neuroticism and extraversion add to the variance in task performance or moderate the effect of absence or presence on task complexity.
The participants were 123 general psychology students at a large north-eastern university. The task was word pair association task based on Spence et al. (1956), where the participant recalled a non-competitive (simple) word pair list after 2 learning trials and a competitive (complex) word pair list. The task consisted of a presence (when an observer is present in the room seated behind the participant for both the simple and complex tasks) condition and a true alone condition (where the participant is completely alone in the room for the simple and complex tasks). The traits of neuroticism and extraversion were measured using the NEO-PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1992), which includes the sub-facets of both traits. To evaluate Eysenck�s theory of neuroticism as an increase in autonomic activity, this study looked at the sub-facet of anxiety categorized under the broad trait of neuroticism. Like-wise, to evaluate Eysenck�s view of extraversion as a higher threshold for outside stimulation and an increase in stimulation outside of the individual, the sub-facet of activity level was analyzed (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985).

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