Social loafing occurs when people work together and when their “output” is combined leaving no one to feel solely accountable for the completed task. Social loafing occurs on many different types of tasks including ones requiring physical effort (Szymanski & Harkins, 1987). Due to social loafing effect we hypothesized that people in groups would leave behind more trash then groups of one to two people. We wanted to see if larger groups left more trash thinking that either they would not be held accountable for it, or that their friends would pick up their slack.
In a clapping experiment it was found that identifiability is a key aspect to social loafing which we believed would come into play during this experiment (Williams, Harkins, & Latane, 1981). Our hypothesis was that groups of three or more people will leave more trash then individuals in correlation with social loafing. Methods We conducted our observational experiment in the Cafeteria at Sierra College, Rocklin Campus’s Cafeteria.
We went into the cafeteria and sat at a table in the back so we could observe the different sized groups and if they left trash behind when they left or if they threw their trash away when they left. Our independent variable was operationally defined as our group size, if there was one to two people being the individual group, or three or more people if there was three or more people. Our dependent variable was if the group left trash or not. We coded if they left trash as a 1 for yes they left anything behind, and 2 for no they took everything with them when they left and threw their trash away.
We split our research group of four into two groups of two. One group observed small groups of one to two people, and the other group observed the large groups of three or more participants. Before we began we made a spread sheet for 10 observations per person noting how many people were in each group and if the person individually left any trash within their group. After we made our observations and had 40 participants studied, 20 in large groups and 20 as individuals (small groups), we left the cafeteria and uploaded our data into an excel word sheet.
We then used Graph Pad to enter our data and retrieve our statistics for our observation experiment using a 2×2 contingency table (fisher’s test). Results We found that there was no statistical significance between the small groups and the large groups leaving trash behind. Although there was a slight trend to support our hypothesis that larger groups of three or more would leave behind more trash then smaller groups of one to two people, it was not statistically significant so it did not support our groups’ hypothesis resulting in an insignificant P-Value of . 037.
Discussion To increase our generalizability and see if there is a significant statistic, this observational study can be performed again but in a larger sample and away from a college campus. Out of 40 people observed only 7 people left trash and 4 of them sat together. I feel like our sample size was too small and we did not observe enough littering to have a statistically significant finding.
To improve our experiment, it should be tried again but instead of one hour of observation, maybe it should be increased to an hour or two a day over a week’s span, or multiple locations to make it more generalizable. Because of social loafing, where members of a group have a tendency to exert less effort than if working alone under the assumption that others will pick up their slack or cover them, we thought that people would leave trash behind when in a group. Although this was the case at one table, for the most part everyone picked up their trash when they left.