SPRING 2000 THEORY WORKBOOK

Table of Contents


General Contexts

Intrapersonal Communication (Persuasion)

Interpersonal Communication

Small Group Communication

Organizational Communication

Intercultural Communication

Mass Communication
 

Applied Contexts

Health Communication

Instructional Communication
 
 

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Last updated February 24, 2000

HONORS:  COMMUNICATION CAPSTONE
SPRING 2000 THEORY WORKBOOK

SMALL GROUP CONTEXT
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Social Loafing

Explanation of Theory:
Social Loafing- the tendency of individual group members to reduce their work effort as
groups increase in size as displayed by the inclination to "goof off" when performance is needed in a group, miss meetings, show up late, or fail to start or complete individual tasks. 

Theorists:  Latane, Williams, and Harkins 

Date: 1979

Primary Article:
     J. Dan Rothwell, "In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups," 3rd. ed., Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Orlando, p.83. 

Individual Interpretations: When in a group, especially in a group of considerable size (10 or more), it is easy to feel unneeded or inadequate. Feelings such as these are what create social loafers in a group. The main problem in cases such as these are not the loafers themselves, but the organizers of the group that put so many individuals together to achieve a task. It is far more difficult to achieve a task when there are more individuals than needed. However, there are the cases in which the individual is simply too lazy to do the work needed to complete a task. This "deadwood" is not the cause of poor
organizing, just the result of laziness. Loafers such as these must be eliminated from the group. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions: Being a Scientific theory, the following metatheoretical assumptions should be advanced: 

Ontological Assumptions: There are many different paths this theory can take in terms of group atmosphere and the outcomes of using and not using certain communication styles.

Epistemological Assumptions: Given the fact that each group member has the free will to take on certain roles and adopt certain communication styles leads to the conclusion that there is no determinism in this theory.

Axiological Assumptions: The Constellation model shows no signs of being value laden, making this theory lean towards the scientific side on the continuum (Griffin).

Critique: Social Loafing Theory is a very important theory in relation to group contexts. Latane, Williams, and Harkins constructed this theory, and as a group was very successful in creating a very useful and informative theory. There needs to be a theory that explains the true nature of groups, and if a group is not formed correctly, the whole intention and purpose of group communication is is jeopardy, not to mention the loss of productivity that can occur as a result. 

Explanatory Power - The theorists have the ability to provide plausible explanations for the phenomenon in a very convincing fashion. Social Loafing Theory explains the circumstances surrounding the social loafer and the emergence of it, dealing ith the size of the group. 

Predictive Power - The theorists make one definite prediction, stating that as a group grows in number, there will emerge "social loafers."

Parsimony -  This is a very understandable theory that is not quite simplistic, yet it is simple enough to be expounded upon, built upon, and effective. 

Falsifiablity - Social Loafing is a theory that can easily and effectively tested by observation in a group setting. 

InternalConsistency - The theorists' logical claims are a definite marker of internal consistency. The phenomena of loafing within a group is clearly explained within the theory. 

Heuristic Provocativeness - This theory provides several ways to expound on it and provide new hypotheses concerning the emerging of the social loafer within a group context. 

Organizing Power - There is a definite sign of organization within this theory, given that three credible researchers collaborated on it and came up with this theory. 

Ideas and Implications: Social Loafing can be used to improve the quality of groups because it tells of the warning signs within a group to look for and aid in eliminating the chance for a social loafer to emerge. 

Example:
Jacob is one individual in a group of ten. The group is given the assignment to propose a new set of rules for the organization to which they belong. The group begins to brainstorm, and Jacob, whenever he feels like sharing a
proposal, is unable to because everyone talks at once, and his proposal would go unheard if he were to volunteer it to the group. After several minutes of attempting to speak, Jacob sits back in his chair and waits for the group to break up. 

Jacob is an example of a social loafer. However, it is not by Jacob's own doing. He simply feels intimidated and outnumbered within the group. 

Relevant Research:
Shimanoff, S. B. (1980). Communication Rules: Theory and Research, Beverly Hills, Sage Publications,  57

Littlejohn, S. W. (1989). Theories of Human Communication, 5th ed., Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 60.

Brilhart, J. K. (1995). Effective Group Discussion, 8th ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown, 26.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A