Social facilitation theory (Rosembloom, 2007 & initially Zajonc & Sales, 1965), explains the phenomenon that occurs when individuals perform easy or difficult tasks in the presence of other people. According to the theory, when someone is performing a task that is simple and easy to maneuver (dominant response) , the performance improves if it is executed in the presence of others, or when the subject feels that he is being observed during the performance of the task. Contrastingly, if the task performed in the presence of others is difficult and new, the subject becomes inhibited and the performance will be poorer. In other words, when in the presence of others
performance is improved with simple or familiar tasks, and deteriorates with complex or new tasks.
Incidents of social facilitation are rampant at the academic level, particularly with younger students. When students learn a new task and are able to master the skill, they will tend to show off their newly-learned skill precisely because their peers are watching or because they are performing the task along with the student. Immediately as they perform together, those who dominate the skill will want to outdo each other.
Meanwhile, it is a fact that students who cannot perform the skill will come under pressure as they observe the more knowledgeable students perform better than them. The combination of factors such as peer-pressure, stress, academic frustration, personal disappointment, anger, and sometimes a very natural sense of peer-rivalry will inhibit the student, debilitate the motivation factor, and will render the student even less able to try and acquire the skill. Therefore, what was a bad performance will now become worse with the dynamics that are taking place around the student.
The implication of social facilitation for teachers is that students should always be grouped in a way that those who are MKOs (more knowledgeable others) will serve as facilitators to the LKO (less knowledgeable) and this way students can help each other catch up through cooperative learning.