Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Thomas T. Jackson
Previous research has found that individuals performing either physical (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979) or cognitive (Petty, Harkins, & Williams, 1980) tasks alone or in groups exert less effort in groups, an effect called social loafing. Need for cognition is defined as “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking” p. 116 (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). Research by Petty, Cacioppo, and Kasmer (1985) compared the need for cognition with social loafing on a cognitive task. Their results showed that individuals low in need for cognition loafed on the task when they were part of a group, but that individuals high in need for cognition did not loaf on the task. The present study further investigated the influence of need for cognition on social loafing behavior. Fifty -five subjects we rerandomly assigned to group or individual treatment conditions. All subjects were asked to generate counter-arguments to a proposal involving the institution of Senior comprehensive examinations. Measures of both overt and covert cognitive activity were taken. Results indicated that differential social loafing behavior did not occur, with subjects in the individual and group conditions generating approximately the same number of counter arguments and expending an equivalent amount of cognitive effort. In addition, no differences were found between subjects high and low in need for cognition, with both groups generating the same number of counterarguments and expending the same amount of cognitive effort. Results showed that individuals low in need for cognition showed a steady decrease in performance over time. Contrary to expectations, high need for cognition subjects also showed a decrease in performance over time. Both groups generated fewer counterarguments as the task proceeded.
Copyright 1989 Martha J. Webb
Webb, Martha J., "The Influence of Need for Cognition on Group Vs. Individual Performance on a Cognitive Task: A Study in Social Loafing" (1989). Master's Theses. 2133.