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Social Facilitation, Social Learning and Obedience to Authority within Educational Development

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Social psychology is the study of people’s emotions, including their thoughts, behaviors and how they are influenced by actual, imagined or implied presence of others. Social psychology can be used within educational development to further develop the understandings of social facilitation, social learning and obedience to authority.

Social facilitation is the question of whether the presence of others has the ability to improve an individual’s performance, whereas social inhibition is the question of whether individuals decrease within performance within the presence of others – which is often seen in new or difficult tasks. Triplett preformed a study in 1898 where he recorded cyclists racing against each other, rather than against the clock, which he then attempted to duplicated using child participants and fishing reels. The participants were spilt into two groups with two conditions for the study. The first group included a single child who must work alone, whereas the second group included children in pairs, but must work alone. The studies task was to wind in a given amount of fishing line of which the results showed that children worked faster in the presence of a partner doing the same task, thus proving the social facilitation study. This study has proven the co-action effect which can be backed up by other theorists such as Chen (1937), who stated in his journal article ‘The Leaders and Followers Among the Ants in the Nest-Building’ that when observing worker ants, ants began to work together in followers and leaders. This can be supported by a quote from his journal, stating: “Others are less active and usually follow the more active ants in selecting a place for nest-building and in starting work”. According to McLeod, S. A. (2011), the extent of social facilitation or inhibition depends upon the nature of the interaction between the task and the performer. This can be further supported by Platt, Yaksh and Darby (1967), who researched eating behaviors in armadillos. Within the research it was found that animals are likely to eat more food with other od their species present. Triplett’s study therefore resulted in the findings that individuals are more likely improve their work performance when working with others. The results are able to be used to inform teaching practice within today’s education. An example of how this can be implemented includes providing pair work within classrooms. When providing pair work, social facilitation is influenced upon the individuals, which will provide more focused, high-performance work.

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Social learning is another important section within social psychology, which is the study of human behavior which is often learned from observing others. Bandura (1961) provided an experiment with 72 participants (36 boys and 36 girls) who range from 3 – 6 years. The study separated the participants into 3 groups of 24 participants. 24 participants saw an individual behaving aggressively towards a toy called a ‘Bobo-doll’. 24 of the participants saw a non-aggressive individual playing quietly in front of the doll for 10 minutes, ignoring the Bobo-doll. 24 of the participants were not exposed to the Bobo-doll. Bandura’s study displays the results that children copy social behavior that they have witnessed. An example of this includes the participants of the Bobo-doll witnessing the aggressive behavior as they displayed similar characteristics towards the doll after. This study can be supported by B.F. Skinner’s social operate conditioning study (1938), where Skinner provided negative and positive reinforcements to rats when completing tasks. Therefore, this supports Bandura’s Bobo-doll study as it proves social learning is mimicked and learnt. Bandura’s study can used to inform teaching practice within schools by providing positive and negative reinforcement within the classroom. An example this includes providing rewards to children for displaying good behaviors and providing reinforcements to children who display unwanted characteristics. Christopher Nesbitt (2013) states in his article ‘Bandura, the Theory of Social Learning and Education’ that classroom teachers are able to adapt the social learning theory to understand behaviors of their students, stating: “Teachers can use the influences and people that these children observe as a point of research to begin to understand why children act out”. When observing children, and linking observations to the Bandura social learning theory, teachers will be able to identify behavior patterns of their students, and therefore know what will encourage and influence their students in developing their work and learning. Bandura’s theory can identify teachers as the individual who either ignored the Bobo-doll or showed aggression towards the doll, and in that become a role model for the children, setting standards of behaviors they wish their students to follow.

Obedience to authority is a social learning theory which identifies changes in behavior due to instructions of an authority figure. Stanley Milgram carried out a study named the ‘Basic Design’ (1963). The study focused upon 40 male participants aged from 20 years – 50, who were told they would be used within a learning experiment. The participants were strapped into an electric chair and told to read and test learners of a series of word pairs. Milgram refused to allow participants out of the electric chair until they have fully completed the study. Each time a participant got the question wrong, an electric shock would be sent to the participant, which increased the more questions were answered wrong. The results of the study showed that two thirds of participants continued to the highest level of volts. The conclusion of the results showed that ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure. Milgram’s experiments showed that obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up. Milgram’s study has shown that teaching can be informed by obedience to authority by displaying power within the authority figure. An example of this includes the teacher displaying their authority within the classroom, children will be more influenced to listen and follow the instructions once authority has been shown.

Summing up, such important sections of social psychology as social facilitation, social learning and obedience to authority can be used in the framework of educational development, making it more effective for students.

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Social Facilitation, Social Learning and Obedience to Authority within Educational Development. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Social Facilitation, Social Learning and Obedience to Authority within Educational Development.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
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