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Posted: October 29th, 2022

Social Loafing

Individuals Experience Social Loafing in Shared Responsibility

Max Ringelmann, a French Agricultural Engineer, first identified the concept of social loafing when he conducted a study that revealed that people do not meet their potential when working in groups. The scholar defined potential as the maximum output of all group members acting alone. The concept simply stated that an individual is more likely to achieve their full potential when working alone than when working with others. When members of a group come together, they work toward a common goal. However, the perception that individual effort is unimportant causes members to take a back seat and fail to put forth as much effort in individual tasks. Finally, the overall group performance will be considered. Aside from performance, there are concerns that social loafing harms members’ relationships by causing resentment, which leads to team conflicts. As a result, the study hypothesizes that when people know that their individual performance is unimportant, they are more likely to social loaf and rely on the efforts of others in the group.
Many studies have been conducted to better understand the nature of social loafing and its impact on group performance. Gabelica et al. (2022) discovered that when people work in groups, they put in less effort because they believe their efforts will not affect performance outcomes. The researchers argue in this study that group members tend to focus on completing tasks rather than learning and mastering concepts. In essence, the researchers imply that when individual performance is important, people are more likely to exert more effort than when the individual score is combined with the scores of other participants.
In a separate study, Cymek&Manzey (2022) support Gadelica’s findings and argue that people exert minimal effort when individual effort is irrelevant. The researchers argue in their study that when people share responsibility, they exert less effort. They carried out two laboratory experiments with blinded and non-blinded groups. The researchers discovered that there was no social loafing in the blinded condition, and the group performed nearly flawlessly. The second group, which was not blinded, showed a significant reduction in effort but had no effect on the overall group outcome. As a result, informing group participants about shared responsibility may reduce their efforts, but this does not necessarily affect group performance. Mihelic and Celiberg (2018), for their part, define social loafing as a dishonest behavior that reduces group effectiveness. When people do not perform well in a group, the group’s overall output suffers. In this study, it is assumed that the group average will be lower because individuals did not give their all to the task. Social loafers contribute less and degrade overall performance by hiding in the crowd. Because they are likely to complete fewer tasks when responding to Mathematics tasks, social loafers may have an impact on the group average score.
Scholars have gone beyond understanding the nature and implications of social loafing to recommend strategies to address the behavior and improve group performance. Performance motivation, according to Lount and Wilk (2022), is a key determinant of how much effort individuals put into a group task. The researchers discovered in their study that, as much as employees work in groups, posting their individual performance will challenge them to work harder at the group level. If the concept is applied to this study, it implies that participants are more likely to complete more tasks if their individual performance is publicly displayed. As a result, the researchers propose that, despite aiming for a group goal, posting performance will motivate individuals to be more committed.
Harding (2017) conducted a study that led to the recommendation that flocking will make employees more committed and avoid riding on the effort of others. Students are matched in Harding’s quasi-experiment based on their availability to participate and willingness to commit to a group task. On the one hand, there are students who are available, motivated, and committed, and the group reported less social loafing and free riding. Students who are unmotivated and lack commitment, on the other hand, were grouped together, and the group recorded high levels of free riding.
According to the research, social loafing is a negative trait that occurs when group members are aware that their individual efforts do not matter. They prioritize shared responsibility while exerting minimal effort, which may have an impact on overall group productivity. They also reveal that when working with social loafers, they put little effort into learning and mastery, instead focusing on completing tasks with little output. The researchers also identified performance motivation and flocking as potential strategies for addressing social loafing in groups.
The study will be based on two hypotheses based on previous research findings. First, we predict that if participants are told their individual scores will be used to determine best performance, they will try to solve more math problems than if they are told their scores will be combined with the scores of two other participants. In this case, the outcome will be a group total score or a group average score. The study is also based on the hypothesis that people believe they do not engage in social loafing. As a result, they all believe they did more tasks than the average participant.

D. H. Cymek and D. H. Manzey (2022). Can social loafing reduce the safety of double checks due to sequential human redundancy? Applied Journal of Experimental Psychology Online publication in advance.
Cabelica, C., S. De Maeyer, and M. C. Schippers (2022). Taking the easy way out: How team learning affects social loafing. 716, Journal of Educational Psychology, 114(4).
L. M. Harding (2018). A group assignment method for reducing free-riding and improving group and individual learning outcomes. 117-127 in Journal of Marketing Education, 40(2).
R. B. Lount Jr. and S. L. Wilk (2014). Working harder or working less? Posting performance reduces social loafing and increases social labor in workgroups. 1098-1106 in Management Science, 60(5).
K. K. Miheli and B. Culiberg (2019).
Reaping the benefits of someone else’s labor: Moral meaningfulness, mindfulness, and motivation in social loafing 713-727 in Journal of Business Ethics, 160(3).

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