Triplit, N. (1897). The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition. American Journal of Psychology, 9, 507-533.
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In this article, Norman Triplett examines the phenomenon currently known as social facilitation. Social facilitation refers to the increase in ability to perform a task when others are present. Triplett first launched into this domain by examining race times of bicyclists by themselves and in the presence of other bicyclists. He found that individuals in competitive bicycle races posted faster speeds than individuals who were riding alone. Similar effects were found with skating as opposed to other types of racing (e.g., swimming, running) due to differences in respiratory needs. Various explanations had been posited, anything from the hypnotic effect of seeing wheels turning to the shielding of wind by the leader of the pack. Triplett, while not discounting these explanations, puts forth a "dynamogenic" account, stating that the presence of others increases arousal of the "competitive instinct."
Triplett attempted to replicate the findings by conducting a controlled experiment in the laboratory. Participants attempted to raise a flag as quickly as possible by using a fishing reel. This task was done both alone and in the presence of a competitor. Triplett found increased performance when competitors were present.
This article is a classic in social psychology in that it was one of the first to examine social influences on behavior.
Strubbe, M. J. (2005). What did Triplett really find? A contemporary analysis of the first experiment in social psychology. American Journal of Psychology, 118, 271-286.
Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149, 269-274.