Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Haslam I 11
Competition/Triplett: Norman Triplett (Triplett 1898)(1) found out, that the presence of other people affects us as individuals. A competitor [or an audience] might lead most individuals to try harder and exert more effort than they would when working alone. >Competition/psychological theories.
Haslam I 17
Overstimulation/Triplett: Positively stimulated children generally had faster times on competition trials than on alone trials, and appeared to be motivated by competition. ‘Overstimulated’ children had slower times when working competitively rather than alone. However, Triplett did not attribute this reduced performance to reduced motivation, but instead to becoming too excited and losing mental or motor control as a result of trying to [work] too hard. Finally, one quarter of the children showed relatively small differences between alone and competition trials, suggesting that they were relatively unaffected by competition.
Haslam I 18
Method/Triplett: Triplett’s research (…) had several features that would later become hallmarks of high-quality social psychological research.
1) He used multiple methodologies, grounding his hypotheses in a detailed archival analysis of competitive cycling results and then testing those hypotheses in a laboratory setting. Using multiple methods to provide converging evidence has become central to the development and advancement of social psychology (Cialdini, 1980)(2).
2) Triplett identified multiple theories that might account for the competition effects he noted in [his] data. He then focused in on the ‘dynamogenic factors’ involving competition and designed a laboratory apparatus that would allow him to study those factors while controlling, at least to some extent, for others. Identifying competing hypotheses derived from multiple theories is crucial to the development of scientific knowledge (Platt, 1964)(3) and has been a key to the advancement of social psychology over time (Ross et al., 2010)(4).
Haslam I 21
The impact of Triplett’s classic research has been profound. It is often cited as the first published study in social psychology (e.g., Aiello and Douthitt, 2001(5); Strube, 2005(6)), as well as in sports psychology (e.g., Iso-Ahola and Hatfield, 1986(7)); and an influential review article on the early history of social psychology by Gordon Allport (1954)(8) refers to it as the very first social psychological experiment (for a dissenting view, see Haines and Vaughan, 1979)(9).



1. Triplett, N. (1898) ‘The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition’, American Journal of Psychology, 9: 507–33.
2. Cialdini, R.B. (1980) ‘Full-cycle social psychology’, Applied Social Psychology Annual, 1: 21–47.
3. Platt, J.R. (1964) ‘Strong inference’, Science, 146: 347–53.
4. Ross, L., Lepper, M. and Ward, A. (2010) ‘History of social psychology: Insights, challenges, and contributions to theory and application’, in S.T. Fiske, D.T. Gilbert and G. Lindzey (eds), Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 1, 5th edn. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 3–50.
5. Aiello, J.R. and Douthitt, E.A. (2001) ‘Social facilitation from Triplett to electronic performance monitoring’, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 5: 163–80.
6. Strube, M.J. (2005) ‘What did Triplett really find? A contemporary analysis of the first experiment in social psychology’, American Journal of Psychology, 118: 271–86.
7. Strube, M.J. (2005) ‘What did Triplett really find? A contemporary analysis of the first experiment in social psychology’, American Journal of Psychology, 118: 271–86.
8. Allport, G.W. (1954) ‘The historical background of modern social psychology’, in G. Lindzey (ed.), Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 1, 1st edn. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley. pp. 3–56.
9. Haines, H. and Vaughan, G.M. (1979) ‘Was 1898 a “great date” in the history of social psychology?’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 15: 323–32.


Steven J. Karau and Kipling D. Williams, “Social Facilitation and Social Loafing. Revisiting Triplett’s competition studies”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Triplett, Norman
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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