Social Facilitation

Feb 12, 2008

From Wikipedia:

Social facilitation is the tendency for people to be aroused into better performance on simple tasks (or tasks at which they are expert or that have become autonomous) when under the eye of others, rather than while they are alone. Complex tasks (or tasks at which people are not skilled), however, are often performed in an inferior manner in such situations. “

It’s an interesting phenomena. And apparently (based on a UC Berkeley podcast I was listening to), the “others” don’t even have to be actively watching. The mere presence of another person causes better performance on simple tasks, and inferior performance at complex tasks.

What that really got me thinking about was education. Education is mainly about complex tasks, isn’t it? Learning to do tasks at which you are not yet skilled at. So would it be better served done alone? That raises the question of effectiveness of self-education (mainly done alone) vs formal education (with people around, classroom setting, etc).

Just questions to think about. I don’t have fixed thoughts or opinions about this, at least not yet. There are other factors, such as networking and social interaction. But it’s an interesting question for me.

Could self-education be scientifically more effective for learning?