What Is Social Facilitation Theory in Psychology?


Jane Flores

What Is Social Facilitation Theory in Psychology?

Social facilitation theory is a psychological concept that focuses on how the presence of other people affects an individual’s performance. The basic idea behind this theory is that people tend to perform better when they are in the presence of others, especially when they are performing simple or well-learned tasks. However, the same presence of others can also lead to a decline in performance when it comes to more complex or unfamiliar tasks.

History of Social Facilitation Theory

The concept of social facilitation has been around for many years and has been studied extensively by psychologists. One of the earliest studies on this topic was conducted by Norman Triplett in 1898. In his study, Triplett observed that cyclists performed better when they were racing against each other than when they were racing alone against the clock.

Later, in 1924, Floyd Allport and others expanded on Triplett’s work and proposed an explanation for why people tend to perform better in the presence of others. They suggested that the mere presence of other people creates a state of arousal that can enhance an individual’s performance on simple or well-learned tasks.

Theories Related to Social Facilitation

Several theories have been proposed to explain social facilitation. One such theory is the evaluation apprehension theory, which suggests that individuals experience arousal not just from the presence of others but also from their evaluation or judgment.

Another theory is distraction-conflict theory, which proposes that individuals experience arousal due to conflicting cues from their environment (such as trying to focus on a task while also being aware of other people).

Examples of Social Facilitation

Social facilitation can be seen in various situations. For example, a musician may perform better in front of a large audience than when practicing alone. Similarly, a student may perform better on a simple test when taking it in a classroom with other students than when taking it alone at home.

However, social facilitation can also have negative effects on performance. For example, an athlete may choke under pressure in front of a large crowd during a critical moment in a game.


In conclusion, social facilitation theory is an important concept in psychology that helps explain how the presence of others can affect an individual’s performance. While the theory has been around for over a century, it continues to be studied and refined by psychologists today.

  • Key Takeaways:
    • Social facilitation theory focuses on how the presence of other people affects an individual’s performance.
    • People tend to perform better on simple or well-learned tasks in the presence of others but may experience decreased performance on complex or unfamiliar tasks.
    • Theories related to social facilitation include evaluation apprehension theory and distraction-conflict theory.
    • Social facilitation can have both positive and negative effects on performance depending on the situation and task at hand.