Drive Theory - Social Psychology

Social Psychology

In social psychology, drive theory was used by Robert Zajonc in 1965 as an explanation of the phenomenon of social facilitation. The audience effect notes that in some cases the presence of a passive audience will facilitate the better performance of a task, while in other cases the presence of an audience will inhibit the performance of a task. Zajonc's drive theory suggests that the variable determining direction of performance is whether the task is composed of a correct dominant response (that is, the task is perceived as being subjectively easy to the individual) or an incorrect dominant response (perceived as being subjectively difficult).

In the presence of a passive audience, an individual is in a heightened state of arousal. Increased arousal, or stress, causes the individual to enact behaviours that form dominant responses, since an individual's dominant response is the most likely response, given the skills which are available. If the dominant response is correct, then social presence enhances performance of the task. However, if the dominant response is incorrect, social presence produces an impaired performance.

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