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In the social psychology of groups, social loafing is the phenomenon that persons make less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work alone. This is one of the main reasons that groups sometimes perform less than the combined performance of their members working as individuals.
The main explanation for social loafing is that people feel unmotivated when working in a group, because they think that their contributions will not be evaluated. According to the results of a meta-analysis study (Karau & Williams, 1993), social loafing is a pervasive phenomenon, but it does not occur when the group members feel that the task or the group itself is important.
The answer to social loafing is motivation. A competitive environment may not necessarily get group members motivated. For Rothwell, it takes "the three C's of motivation" to get a group moving: collaboration, content, and choice.
- Collaboration is a way to get everyone involved in the group by assigning each member special, meaningful tasks. (CSCW, 2000) It is a way for the group members to share the knowledge and the tasks to be fulfilled unfailingly. For example, if Sally and Raúl were loafing because they were not given specific tasks, then giving Sally the note taker duty and Raúl the brainstorming duty will make them feel essential to the group. Sally and Raúl will be less likely to want to let the group down, because they have specific obligations to complete.
- Content identifies the importance of the individuals' specific tasks within the group. If group members see their role as that involved in completing a worthy task, then they are more likely to fulfill it. For example, Raúl may enjoy brainstorming, as he knows that he will bring a lot to the group if he fulfills this obligation. He feels that his obligation will be valued by the group.
- Choice gives the group members the opportunity to choose the task they want to fulfill. Assigning roles in a group causes complaints and frustration. Allowing group members the freedom to choose their role makes social loafing less significant, and encourages the members to work together as a team.
- Free rider problem
- Group participation
- Parasitism (social offense)
- Social facilitation
- Social influences
- Jackson, J. M. & Harkins, J. M. (1985). Equity in effort: An explanation of the social loafing effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1199-1206.
- Jackson, J. M. & Williams, K. D. (1985). Social loafing on difficult tasks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 937-942.
- Karau, S. J. & Williams, K. D. (1993). Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 681-706.
- Rothwell, J, D. "In the Company of Others," McGraw-Hill, 2004, ISBN 0-7474-3009-3
- Williams, K., Harkins, S. and Latane, B. (1981) Identifiability as a deterrent to social loafing: two cheering experiments, ,Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology 40: 303-11.
- "Pattern: Collaboration in Small Groups" by CSCW, The Computing Company, October 31, 2005, retrived October 31, 2005
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