Social Facilitation as a Function of the Mere Presence of Others

Document Type



Published in: Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 141, Number 2, 2001.


According to R. B. Zajonc's (1965) drive theory of social facilitation, the mere presence of others increases arousal and, thereby, the frequency of dominant responses (i.e., responses with the greatest habit strength). In the present experiment, U.S. undergraduates performed a stimulus discrimination task under 1 of 2 conditions: in the presence of another individual (audience) or alone. The mere presence condition was designed to make it difficult for the participants to attend directly to the audience. The task was designed to minimize the likelihood that the specific response (numerical preference) would be attributable to a desire to respond appropriately to the audience. There was a significant difference in the mean number of dominant responses between the participants in the audience condition and those in the alone condition. The results provide support for Zajonc's mere presence drive theory of social facilitation.