Social loafing and personality: The effects of individual differences on collective performance

Carrie J Cohen, Fordham University


Recent research has demonstrated that individuals exert less effort when working collectively compared to when they are working alone. This effect has been termed "social loafing." There have been three explanations proposed as to why loafing occurs: identifiability, equity and the loss of control. The present experiment proposed to measure the effects of personality variables on social loafing in order to accomplish two goals. First, it provided data on which of the explanations of social loafing is most valid. Predictions can be generated from each explanation that certain personality variables will correlate with loafing behavior in a specific pattern. The personality dimensions that were examined for this purpose are: social desirability, social insight, greed and fear motivation and desire for control. A secondary purpose was to identify those individuals who are especially prone to social loafing. This was accomplished using the four personality dimensions previously mentioned, and a fifth dimension, work ethic, was included specifically for this purpose. The five dimensions were measured with the following scales: the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, the Chapin Social Insight Test, the Greed and Fear Scale, the Desirability of Control Scale and the Survey of Work Values Scale. Social loafing was operationalized with a shouting and clapping paradigm. The subjects were 156 undergraduate students. Half of the subjects completed the personality scales first and the other half of subjects completed the social loafing task first. In order for the hypotheses to be considered supported, two criteria were required. First, there had to be an overall social loafing effect. This criterion was satisfied; subjects shouted and clapped louder when they were alone than when they were in collectives (F(1,155) = 25.44, p $<$.01). Second, the personality measures had to significantly correlate with loafing in the predicted direction. None of the correlations were significant. This could mean that none of the theoretical explanations are correct. It is also possible that the social loafing paradigm was too powerful to allow individual differences to be effective, or the scales used were not reliable or valid enough to adequately test the hypotheses. These results may also indicate that loafing is such a strong phenomenon that individuals loaf regardless of their personality.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Cohen, Carrie J, "Social loafing and personality: The effects of individual differences on collective performance" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8809486.