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Section 1 Foundations of Doctoral Study / Chapter 7 Preparing for Writing
What do human beings and cockroaches have in common? Apart from being members of the animal kingdom, both cockroaches and humans are affected by the phenomenon of social facilitation (Zajonc, Heingartner, & Herman, 1969). Social facilitation describes the tendency for individuals to perform better on simple or well-learned tasks while in the presence of others than they would alone (Park & Catrambone, 2007). The presence of others leads to increased physiological arousal, and Zajonc and Sales (1966) observed that increased adrenaline output results in enhanced performance on simple tasks, but has a detrimental effect on difficult tasks. This increased level of arousal allows individuals to maintain a level of awareness regarding their performance, leading to improved performance. The presence of other individuals leading to improved performance has been observed repeatedly in the social psychological literature, but with the ever-increasing presence of technology in the lives of individuals, an examination of the effect of virtual or fictional humans is appropriate.
This paper will present a comparative analysis of two articles: “Love Makes You Real: Favorite Television Characters are Perceived as 'Real' in a Social Facilitation Paradigm,” by Gardner and Knowles (2008); and “Social Facilitation Effects of Virtual Humans,” by Park and Catrambone (2007). Gardner and Knowles (2008) and Park and Catrambone (2007) both explore the link between social facilitation and the presence of representations of humans (either fictional or virtual). These articles will be compared along the following dimensions: research questions/hypotheses, literature reviews, sample populations, results/conclusions, and limitations. Suggestions for future research will be provided in the conclusion.