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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Research conducted for more than a century has shown that the presence of others improves performance on simple tasks and debilitates it on complex tasks, whether these others are audience members or coactors. In this chapter, we review theories offered to account for how two features of these others, their mere presence and/or the potential for evaluation they represent, produce these effects, and we conclude that we are no closer now to isolating the relevant process(es) than we were 100 years ago. We then consider the molecular task analysis proposed by Harkins (2006) as an approach to attacking this problem, followed by a review of the work supporting the mere effort account suggested by this analysis. Finally, we place the mere effort account in the larger context represented by the Threat-Induced Potentiation of Prepotent Responses model, which aims to account for the effect of threat on task performance.

Keywords: social facilitation, mere presence, evaluation apprehension, motivation, threat, task performance

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