How Social Facilitation Will Improve Your Performance!
Even though it was in October of 2015, I still remember running my first 5k like it was yesterday. I remember it so clearly for many reasons. The first being, it was the first competitive race I had ever participated in, so the experience itself was entirely new to me. We were also showing out with Heather's mother, sister, and our brother in law, to show our support and to celebrate Heather's mother's early diagnosis and successful treatment of breast cancer. On top of all of this, it would turn out to be the best physical performance I had ever accomplished. You would think those reasons would be enough to brand the event into my memory, but what I remember most is how I felt. I’ll never forget being almost overwhelmed by this incredible feeling. It was this feeling of energy and excitement that I had never felt before.
It was this incredible feeling, that empowered me to perform at the best of my abilities. For the first time in my life, I ran an entire 3.1 miles, without stopping. For you athletes out there, that’s nothing, but for me, it was life changing. Prior to training for this 5k, I had never even ran a full mile. Out of stubbornness and an early distain for authority, I didn’t even run the mile when I was supposed to in school. Even in training for the 5k, I only ran a maximum distance of maybe 1.5 miles. Then, when I was at the starting line in Tampa, FL ,with my family and all of those people, I just felt invincible! A lot of you out there have probably experienced this same sensation.
Having continued my interest in psychology beyond attaining my B.A. in the subject, I was aware the sensation was known as Social Facilitation. What I remembered about the theory in general, was the presence of others can improve your performance. I knew the presence of others could come from someone participating with you, like a training partner or competitor, or it could be from an observing audience, but this was the extent of my memory. Upon returning home, I quickly dove back into some psych reading to find out more about Social Facilitation, and how I could use it to help improve my performance. What I found out was, it’s as easy as practicing, and just showing up.
As with any other psychological theory, there are many sub theories and contradictions, so I’m going to leave the science to the scientists. For now, let’s focus on the basics of Social Facilitation, and how you can use it to improve your performance. First of all, this theory doesn’t apply to just sports. Essentially, you can improve your performance in anything, from sports to business. The main points you need to know are, you must practice whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish in order to be prepared. That’s step one. Step two is as simple as showing up and executing whatever it is you’ve been practicing. The mere presence of others, whether other participants or the audience, will improve your performance. Let’s take a look at this example of social facilitation in relation to speeches, from Khan Academy, one our 10 Free Ways To Elevate Your Mind For Free. You can skip the part on Social Loafing after, or watch the whole video for a little extra mind elevation!
“The presence of others increases your arousal, or your general physiological, or psychological excitement. Things like your heart rate increasing, you might be breathing quicker than usual. It’s the activation of your autonomic nervous system essentially.”
So this was the answer to my overwhelming feeling of energy and excitement! I was actually experiencing a physiological and psychological reaction to the presence of all those people, and it was amazing. It not only made me accomplish something I didn’t think I was capable of, it also made me firmly realize anyone can accomplish things beyond what they believe. My mind was instantly opened to an array of endless possibilities of achievement. So what are some ways you can take advantage of this to improve your performance?
Step one is still practice, and what I’m about to suggest is nothing new. In fact, it’s quite common and suggested by coaches and athletes everywhere, practice with a partner. Having a training partner in sports, or someone to practice something like your speech with, even if you are comfortable around them, will provide some social facilitation. Sometimes it may be a lot. Sometimes it may be a little, but it will improve your performance. Going to a gym alone can also produce similar effects because of the audience the other gym members provide. I still prefer to train with a partner.
Heather has something I admire, and that’s her drive. When we’re training, or doing anything else for that matter, she keeps on going no matter what. Me, not so much. When I train alone, I take more breaks and I don’t push myself as hard when compared to training with her. When I’m running and feel like slowing down to a walk and I look up to see my wife over a quarter mile ahead of me and rapidly getting further away, I tend to pick my pace up and try to close the gap. Training with her has an affect on me that makes me push myself harder than I normally would, and it improves my performance.
What if you don’t have someone to train or practice with? I feel it is reasonable to assume that each of us have at least one person we could convince to train or practice with, and if not, take advantage of technology. There are many services online that offer online training for fitness, including one on one coaching via live video, and probably less for practicing things like speeches or performances, but give it a Google search and see what you can find that fits your style. If all else fails, contact us and we’ll do what we can to provide an audience to help improve your performance!
Step two in using social facilitation to improve your performance is, once you’ve practiced, simply show up and perform. It’s that easy. The mere presence of co-participants and/or the audience will then stimulate your autonomic nervous system, and you’ll reap the benefits! This makes practicing the hardest part, because you have to put in the time and effort. Finding someone to practice might prove to be difficult depending on what it is you’re wanting to practice, but if you happen to be looking for a training partner to run with, look no further than the future, and the future is now.
The PUMA BeatBot is a step into the future of utilizing the concepts of both competition, and social facilitation, to improve your performance. This proves that your training partner or audience might not even need to be human to produce the same results! With the introduction of physical training partners like the BeatBot, online resources, and being able to just show up at the gym, there are no excuses for not taking advantage of this, and using social facilitation to do whatever it is you want to, better than you ever thought possible.