Social Facilitation

Norman Triplett, way back in 1898, noticed that people in bicycle races went faster when they were competing against each other directly than when they were racing individually (e.g., an individual time trial). This observation was the basis for social facilitation, which states that people perform certain tasks better when they are in the presence of other people. This is true for simple tasks, tasks people are good at already, or already learned tasks, but not for difficult or novel tasks.

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History of Psychology
History of Psychology