Effects of Evaluation Apprehension, Observation, and Task Difficulty On Social Facilitation: A Test of the Zajonc and Cottrell Hypotheses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ron Edwards

Advisor Department



Two theories of social facilitation, one stressing mere presence of a conspecific and the other proposing the experience of subject perceived evaluation apprehension, were compared to measure their ability to account for the social facilitation effect. Subjects were tested under two levels of task difficulty, two levels of evaluation apprehension, and three levels of observation. The dependent measure was efficiency of pursuit rotor performance. Significant main effects for task difficulty and observation were obtained. The main effect for evaluation approached significance. There was a significant interaction between observation and task difficulty. Evaluation apprehension resulted in significant performance improvement on the not-observed easy task but did not appear to significantly effect performance when observers were present. The expected decrement in difficult task performance under conditions of observation was not obtained. Specific validity threats to social facilitation research were discussed and mere presence theory was challenged. Results suggested that the Zajonc and Cottrell theories should not be considered mutually exclusive. The data suggest that subject perceived evaluation apprehension may be effectively manipulated; however, replication and additional investigation will be required. Finally, issues of establishing levels of task difficulty (discreet levels vs a continuum) and observation interactions were discussed.