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Effect of Perceived Anonymity of Group Task Social Loafing

4702 words (19 pages) Essay in Psychology

16/04/18 Psychology Reference this

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Title:

The effect of perceived anonymity upon individual effort in a group task.

Abstract:

Social loafing according to Latané et al (1979) is the decrease in personal effort that occurs when an individual works within a group. However, when people feel as though their input is identifiable they are motivated to exert more effort, thereby mitigating social loafing. (Harkins & Jackson, 1985) In an attempt to discover if this effect could be replicated, an opportunity sample of 52 participants was recruited to partake in an independent measures experiment. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups, the public group or the private group. Both groups were asked, via email, to provide suggestions on how their town centre could be improved. The “public” group believed their results would be attributed to them publicly whilst the “private” group were assured anonymity. It was hypothesized that the public group would provide more suggestions than the private group. The “private” condition resulted in a lower mean number of responses (M 3.8, SD 2.6) than the “public” condition (M 6.8, SD 2.22) which supported the hypothesis.

Introduction:

Social loafing is the propensity for group members to come to be less productive as the group size increases (Latané et al, 1979). This effect reveals the converse relationship that exists between group size and an individual’s input to the accomplishment of a task. While examining the association between performance effectiveness and group productivity, Ringelmann (1913) discovered that having members of a group work collectively (in this case, pulling a rope) actually resulted in considerably less effort being applied than when the individual carried out the task independently. Ringelmann also revealed that as more individuals join a group, the group frequently grows progressively inefficient; rejecting the premise that group effort reliably leads to increased productivity. He suggested that groups fail to maximise their potential as several interpersonal processes diminish the group’s overall ability. Williams, Harkins and Latané, (1981) attributed two distinct processes as potential sources for the reduced productivity within groups: motivation loss, and coordination issues. However, group members largely believe that they are contributing to their full potential when asked; evidence has indicated that individuals exhibit loafing without realising (Karau & Williams, 1993). In order to facilitate a reduction in social loafing, several suggestions forwarded.

Kerr & Bruun (1983) state that individuals who exhibit social loafing often fail to contribute as they believe other group members will compensate for them. Therefore, each member of a group should be made to feel like they are vital to the completion of the task at hand. By increasing the individual’s perceived importance of their part of the group, members tend to expend more effort towards achieving the required outcomes.

Harkins & Szymanski (1989) assert that groups that establish explicit goals tend to outperform groups with unclear objectives. Setting clearly defined aims is believed to encourage many production-enhancing processes, such as increased commitment, comprehensive planning and quality monitoring of group tasks, and increased effort (Weldon, Jehn, & Pradhan, 1991). Similar results can be achieved by decreasing the group size; as group size reduces, each members role in the group becomes increasingly integral, so the opportunity to loaf is reduced.

Finally, and the focus of this study, when people feel as though their individual contribution is identifiable, they become motivated to work harder on a group project (Harkins & Jackson, 1985). This is due to the individual experiencing evaluation apprehension, thereby increasing productivity through social facilitation. Social facilitation is an improvement in performance produced by the presence of others, as in the “audience effect” as demonstrated by Dashiell (1935), However, should a project allow individual members to remain anonymous, they feel less anxiety about being judged by others, resulting in social loafing (Harkins& Petty,1982). The research hypothesis for this study is: Participants in the public group will provide more suggestions than participants in the private group.

Method:

Design:

An Independent measures experimental design with two groups was employed. The independent variable, attribution of comments, was manipulated so that one group was informed that their comments would be publicly attributed to them while the other group was informed that they would remain anonymous. The dependent variable was the total number of responses.

Participants:

52 Participants from the experimenter’s friends, family and workplace were asked via email to participate. Participants were assigned, on an alternate basis, to either the “public” or “private” condition. The number of participants in each condition was equal.

Materials:

  • Standard (2013) desktop PC running Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2010 was used for all email correspondence, data collation.
  • Ethical consent form obtained from a university representative prior to experiment. (See Appendix A).
  • Participant consent form (See Appendix B).
  • “Public” group instruction form (See Appendix C).
  • “Private” group instruction form (See Appendix D).
  • Response collation form (See Appendix E).
  • Participant debrief form (See Appendix F).

Procedure:

Each participant in the first instance was contacted via email to ask if they wished to take part in a research experiment. Participants who agreed were randomly assigned to one of two groups, the “public” group or the “private” group, by means of order of response. For example the first participant to agree to take part was allocated to the “public” group, the second to “private” and alternated thusly until all participants had been assigned a group. Each was then sent, via email, an instruction form relating to their group and a consent form to complete. Each participant was asked to follow the instructions provided and return both the consent form and their responses by email within 48 hours. Once the responses were received the debrief sheet was sent out to inform the participant of the true nature of the experiment and advise them that they could remove their data and consent should they wish to. As no consent was withdrawn all data gathered was utilised. The total number of responses for each participant was counted and recorded under the appropriate group heading on the response collation form for statistical analysis.

Results:

The results from the two groups were collected and collated into a table of raw data (See Appendix G). Summary statistics are provided in Table 1 and the mean values are displayed in Figure 1. An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the number of responses in “public” and “private” conditions (See Appendix H). There was a significant difference in the scores for the “public” (M=6.8, SD= 2.2) and the “private” (M=3.8, SD=2.6) conditions; t (50) =4.52, p= < .001. These results suggest that if individual believe their input to a group task is identifiable they are likely to exert more effort. Specifically, the results suggest that when participants in a group are monitored, the propensity to “loaf” is decreased.

 

Table 1

Mean (and SD) of number of responses for public and private conditions

 

Group

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Std. Error Mean

No._of_responses

public

26

6.8462

2.22157

.43569

private

26

3.8077

2.60798

.51147

Figure 1. Mean number of responses for “public” and “private” conditions.

Discussion:

The results generated in this study support Harkins and Jackson’s (1985) assertion that identification increases group productivity in that the “public” group provided a significantly higher “response” mean. It also suggests Ringelmann’s (1913) observations and Latané et al’s (1979) “social loafing” may occur even when group members are not physically part of a group.

A possible issue of using an independent measures design for this type of research is the potential for error arising from individual differences between participants, for example it may have been that those selected for the “public” group may have been, in general, more civically minded with a greater personal investment in their home town. As a result the “public” group might return more responses, not as a result of the independent variable being altered but of the individual differences in participants. To mitigate this effect more information would need to be gleaned from participants to ensure equal distributions between groups.

Social loafing and social facilitation, in general, are viewed as distinct lines of research in social psychological literature. It appears, however, that these two phenomena may be closely related as the latter appears to mitigate the former. Further research into the extent to which they interact would be useful in uncovering the depth of the relationship. A pertinent question would be; is there a situation where social facilitation fails to affect social loafing?

References:

Dashiell, J. F. (1935). Experimental studies of the influence of social situations on the behavior of individual human adults.

Harkins, S. G., & Petty, R. E. (1982). Effects of task difficulty and task uniqueness on social loafing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(6), 1214.

Harkins, S. G., & Szymanski, K. (1989). Social loafing and group evaluation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,56(6), 934.

Karau, S. J., & Williams, K. D. (1993). Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration.Journal of personality and social psychology,65(4), 681.

Kerr, N. L., & Bruun, S. E. (1983). Dispensability of member effort and group motivation losses: Free-rider effects. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 44(1), 78.

Latané, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S. (1979). Many hands make light the work: The causes and consequences of social loafing.Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology,37(6), 822-832. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.6.822

Ringelmann, M. (1913). Research on animate sources of power: The work of man.Annales de l’Instuit National Agronomique,12, 1-40.

Szymanski, K., & Harkins, S. G. (1987). Social loafing and self-evaluation with a social standard.Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology,53(5), 891-897. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.53.5.891

Weldon, E., Jehn, K. A., & Pradhan, P. (1991). Processes that mediate the relationship between a group goal and improved group performance.Journal of personality and social psychology,61(4), 555.

Appendix:

Appendix A

Completed ethical consent form obtained prior to study.

  • Research Projects – UHI Students

All Undergraduate, Taught Postgraduate and Research Students registered on any UHI programme undertaking a research project must seek ethical approval via their Project Supervisor prior to undertaking any form of fieldwork or data collection exercise.

Please read the UHI Research Ethics Framework before completing this form and submitting it to your Project Supervisor for approval and signature. Please pay close attention to the guidance notes, as it may be necessary for you to complete another form as part of this exercise.

Further information on UHI’s Research Ethics Policy and the ethical approval process can be found at http://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/research-enterprise/resource/ethics

Student Name:

Rachel Whitby

         

Status:

X

Undergraduate

 

Postgraduate

 

Research

Email:

[email protected]

Tel. No.:

07870639884

     

Contact address:

Perth College UHI, Crieff Road, Perth PH1 2NX

         

Project Title:

Effect of social loafing on group tasks

         

Module Name & No.:

Social Psychology (3rd Year) UC800/F3/PB

         

Research Ethics Checklist

Please complete as appropriate

   

Yes

No

1

Will the study involve recruitment of patients or staff through the NHS?

 

X

If the answer to the above question is “Yes”, compliance with NHS Guidelines will be required (see www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/Research/Pages/ResearchEthics.aspx ), and there is no need for you to answer the remaining questions. Please complete and sign the declaration at the end of this form and submit it to your Project Supervisor.

If the answer is “No”, please continue to Question 2.

   

Yes

No

2

Will the study involve human participants?

X

 

If the answer to the above question is “Yes”, please answer the remaining questions.

If the answer is “No”, please complete and sign the declaration at the end of this form and submit it to your Project Supervisor.

   
  • Yes
  • No

3

Will the study involve participants who are particularly vulnerable and may be unable to give informed consent (e.g. children under 18, persons with disabilities, etc.)?

 

X

4

Will any of the interviews or questioning of participants be conducted in a language other than the respondents’ first language?

 

X

5

Will the study require the co-operation of a gatekeeper for initial access to the groups or individuals to be recruited? (e.g. school students, members of self-help group, residents of nursing home)

 

X

6

Will it be necessary for participants to take part in the study without their knowledge/consent at the time? (e.g. covert observation of people in non-public places)

 

X

7

Will the study involve discussion of topics which the participants would find sensitive (e.g. sexual activity, own drug use)?

 

X

8

Are drugs, placebos or other substances (e.g. food substances, vitamins) to be administered to the study participants?

 

X

9

Will the study involve invasive, intrusive or potentially harmful procedures?

 

X

10

Will blood or tissue samples be obtained from participants?

 

X

11

Is pain or more than mild discomfort likely to result from the study?

 

X

12

Could the study induce psychological stress or anxiety, or cause harm or negative consequences beyond the risks encountered in everyday life?

 

X

13

Will the study involve prolonged or repetitive testing?

 

X

14

Will financial inducements (other than reasonable expenses and compensation for time) be offered to participants?

 

X

If you have answered “No” in each case to Questions 3-14, please complete the Declaration and pass this form to your Project Supervisor for approval.

If you have answered “Yes” to any of the questions, please complete Form REC1-D Student and submit it to your Project Supervisor along with this form.

DECLARATION

 

Yes

N/A

I confirm that I have read the UHI Research Ethics Framework

X

 

I confirm that NHS Ethics Approval is being sought* and that the UHI Research Ethics Committee will be notified that such approval is in place

X

 

*please delete as appropriate

Signed:

Rachel Whitby

 

Date:

10/10/2014

PROJECT SUPERVISOR AUTHORISATION

I confirm that:

   

Yes

No

The topic merits further research

 

X

 

The student has the skills to carry out the research

 

X

 

The information sheet or leaflet for research participants is appropriate

 

X

 

The procedures for recruitment and obtaining informed consent are appropriate

 

X

 

Comments – ‘Approved’ or ‘Not Approved’:

Approved

Name:

Norman Wilson

 

Email:

[email protected]

Signed:

   

Date:

 

Thank You. Once authorised, please pass this form, along with Form REC1-D Student if relevant, to the UHI Research Ethics Officer

Appendix B

Participant consent form.

Consent Form

Name:

Age:

Top of Form

Gender: MaleFemale

Would you like a copy of the completed report? Yes No

Bottom of Form

Appendix C

“Public” group instruction form.

Instructions – Public Group

Thank you for volunteering to take part in this project.

  • You are in a group of about 40 people from your local community who have been asked to provide suggestions on how your local town centre can be improved (e.g. provision of litter bins, other shops you would like to see/not see, activities etc).
  • All group members will receive a copy of all suggestions and their authors, made by the group.
  • You can provide as many suggestions as you like.
  • Please send your suggestions by return email within 48 hours.
  • You will then receive a debrief sheet.

Appendix D

“Private” group instruction form.

Instructions – Private Group

Thank you for volunteering to take part in this project.

  • You are in a group of about 40 people from your local community who have been asked to provide suggestions on how your local town centre can be improved (e.g. provision of litter bins, other shops you would like to see/not see, activities etc).
  • No-one else in your group will see your suggestions or name and participation will be in the strictest confidence.
  • You can provide as many suggestions as you like.
  • Please send your suggestions by return email within 48 hours.
  • You will then receive a debrief sheet.

Appendix E

Result collation form.

NUMBER OF RESPONSES BY GROUP

PUBLIC

PRIVATE

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Appendix F

Participant debrief form.

Debrief sheet

Thank you again for taking part in this project.

You have in fact been taking part in an experiment into social loafing. You were amongst a group of 40 participants who were randomly assigned to one of two groups, a public group and a private group. The aim of the experiment was to compare the amount of suggestions provided by each group. It was anticipated that the public group would provide more suggestions as they believed they would be identified and as such would not want to appear to be putting the overall performance of the group down, the private group were expected to provide less suggestions as they were not to be identifiable and it would not be known if they provided only one suggestion for the group, and therefore more prone to ‘social loafing’.

The data has now been collated and we did indeed find that the public group provided more suggestions than the private group. These findings along with a report will be written and submitted to the University of Highlands and Islands as part of an assessment carried out by 3rd year Psychology Degree students.

Your personal details will not appear in the final report other than the amount of suggestions provided and you will be referred to by number only.

We apologise for deceiving you and accept that you may wish to withdraw your data from this study, if so please inform us by return email and we will remove your data from the group.

In order for us to use your data, please complete the attached form and return by email as soon as possible.

Should you wish to receive a copy of the report, please tick the appropriate box on the attached form.

Thank you again for your participation in this study.

Appendix G

Raw data collated from participant responses.

NUMBER OF RESPONSES BY GROUP

PUBLIC

PRIVATE

6

5

6

4

8

2

10

3

8

2

7

5

12

6

8

2

9

4

11

3

8

3

3

7

3

6

3

4

6

8

4

13

6

2

6

4

6

2

7

1

6

3

8

3

7

1

7

2

7

2

6

2

   

Appendix H

Independent Samples T Test results.

Independent Samples Test

 

Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances

t-test for Equality of Means

F

Sig.

t

df

Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

Std. Error Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

Lower

Upper

No._of_responses

Equal variances assumed

.250

.619

4.522

50

.000

3.03846

.67188

1.68895

4.38797

Equal variances not assumed

   

4.522

48.767

.000

3.03846

.67188

1.68811

4.38881

1

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