Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Effects of Group Size and Expectancy of Reward on Social Loafing

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Effects of Group Size and Expectancy of Reward on Social Loafing

Article excerpt


There is a large body of evidence which have shown that monitoring personal effort on group projects reduces social loafing effects, but as the world gets more complex with several co-operative tasks there is a need to explore other variables that would inspire group, rather than individual performance. This experiment re-examined the prediction that performing in large group would lead to social loafing behaviour, the study also tested whether the promise of reward would attenuate social loafing effect on a simple experimental task. Forty (40) Igbo secondary school students of south eastern Nigeria participated in the experiment. They were aged 13-16 years (mean age = 14.53). Results indicated that performance was significantly poorer in the group condition than in the alone condition (p. <05); and reward significantly attenuated social loafing effect in the group condition (p. <05). These observations were discussed in relation to the prevailing challenge in team work.

Key words: Expectancy of reward, Group size, Max Ringlemann, Individual performance, Personal effort.


The Igbo speaking people of south eastern Nigeria knew that individuals work less hard in groups than when working alone. The Igbo proverb, "ewu oha nwe n'anwu n'aguu" (meaning that a goat owned by many individuals usually dies of hunger), predict that sharing work with other people reduce individual performance. This phenomenon of individuals exerting less effort when they work in a group than when they work independently is labeled social loafing. Social loafing is a pervasive characteristic of working in groups and occurs in several different cultures (Gabrenya, Latane & Wang, 1983).

The first evidence of social loafing was demonstrated by a French agricultural engineer, Max Ringlemann (Kravitz & Martin, 1986). Ringlemann asked participants to pull on a rope as hard as they could. The participants pulled by themselves or with one, two, or seven others. A sensitive gauge was used to measure how strongly the participants pulled the rope. Participants' efforts pulling on the rope were less when they worked in a group than when they performed the task alone. Groups of two pulled at only 95 percent of their capacity and groups of three and eight sank to 85 percent and 49 percent respectively. That is, as more individuals pulled on the rope, the individuals exerted themselves less. From these observations, Ringlemann observed that individuals perform below their potential when working in a group (LaFasto 8c Larson, 2001).

Similarly, Latane, Williams and Harkins (1979) identified social loafing among college students. Latane and colleagues had six blindfolded college students sit in semi-circle. The students wore headphone that blasted sounds of people shouting into their ears. The experimental task was to shout as loud as possible while listening to the headphone noise. On some trials, the students believed that the other five students were also shouting. At other trials, they believe that they were either shouting alone or with one other student. In reality, only a student was performing on all the trials. Consistent with the phenomenon of social loafing, when a student thought one other person was shouting, the student shouted 82 percent as intensely as when alone, and when they believed all six of them were shouting, they shouted 75 percent as intensely. As in Ringlemann's study, output decreased with increased group membership, due to social loafing.

Since these early observations, social loafing has been identified in numerous other studies (e.g., De Vita, 2001; Hardy 8c Latane, 1988; Karau 8c Williams, 1993; Price & Harrison, 2006; Weldone & Gargano, 1988). The phenomenon have also been documented in a host of behaviours to illustrate a principle that is common in business, family, education, and in social gatherings that harms the overall integrity and performance of a group by reducing the level of output. …

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