The effects of group composition and evaluation on task performance

John J. Seta, Paul B. Paulus, Hal T. Risner
1977 Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society  
The effects of the presence of coactors working on the same and different tasks were examined. Subjects were run under either high-or low-evaluative conditions and in either a mixed group (half worked on a maze task while half worked on a multiplication task) or in a homogeneous group (all subjects worked on the maze task). A significant Evaluation by Group Composition interaction was obtained. Under high-evaluative conditions subjects in the mixed condition performed significantly better on
more » ... maze task than did subjects on the homogeneous condition, while under low-evaluative conditions, the mixed and homogeneous subjects did not differ in their maze performance. The results were discussed in terms of learned drive theory and incentive motivation. Past research has demonstrated that an individual's task performance can be affected by the presence of others (see Cottrell, 1972, for a review). This research has employed two paradigms, audience and coaction. In the audience paradigm, individuals perform a task in the presence of observers, while in the coaction paradigm a group of individuals concurrently and individ· ually perform an identical -task. Zajonc (1965) has argued that the mere presence of others increases an individual's general level of arousal, which in turn increases the tendency to emit dominant responses. If the dominant responses are correct (as with well-learned tasks), heightened arousal will result in improved performance by an individual; if the dominant responses are incorrect (as with tasks that are not well learned), arousal will result in impaired performance. Cottrell (1972) has modified Zajonc's (1965) conceptualization by arguing that mere presence is not a sufficient condition for increased arousal. He proposes that the mere presence of others has nondirective energizing effects only if the presence of others creates anticipations of positive or negative outcomes. Seta, Paulus, and Schkade (1976) have extended this position by proposing that others can increase, decrease, or have no effect on arousal depending on whether they are positive, negative, or neutral stimuli. That is, others can be a source of arousal reduction when their presence decreases the intensity or the probability of an aversive outcome and/or increases the probability or intensity of a positive outcome. Others can also be a source of
doi:10.3758/bf03336947 fatcat:py23aaj4u5afvjm5bgjnpaqksm