How is deindividuation's effect on social loafing similar to its effect on aggression?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Deindividuation’s effect on aggression is similar to its effect on social loafing in that it increases the likelihood of both types of action.  When people experience deindividuation, they are more likely to act in an aggressive way and they are also more likely to engage in social loafing.  This is because a person who experiences deindividuation does not feel as much of a sense of self or of restraint and responsibility.

When people have a sense of self, they tend to be restrained.  They are less likely to act in ways that society does not approve of because they do not people to think they are deviant.  They believe that they will be found out if they act badly and they believe that people will blame them for their actions.  When people are deindividuated, they lose these controls on their behavior (or those controls become weaker).  They feel more like an anonymous part of a group and less like an individual person.  Therefore, they are less likely to think that they will be found out and blamed if they act in ways that are socially unacceptable.

In general, people in our society do not approve of social loafing or of aggression.  Social loafing is when we do not work as hard when we are part of a group as we would if we were alone.  We rely on others in the group to pick up the slack for our loafing.  Aggression is when we act in ways that are meant to harm or destroy others.  Both of these types of actions are generally frowned upon by society.  Therefore, people do not typically engage in them.  However, as we discussed above, deindividuation reduces our tendency to act in socially acceptable ways.  Therefore, deindividuation makes it more likely that we will engage in social loafing and/or aggression.

Deindividuation reduces our sense of self and our sense that we are responsible for our actions.  When we are deindividuated, we are more likely to act in ways that society does not like because we do not feel so responsible for those actions.  This is how/why deindividuation has a similar effect on social loafing and on aggression.

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