I/O Psychology Social Psychology

Episode 116: Social Loafing – Don’t Be a Sucker or a Free Loader!

Do you like working in a group? Most people don’t because they’re afraid that they’ll have to do most of the work (wind up being a sucker) and that other group members won’t do their share of the work (free loaders). Want to find out how to avoid this and make your group work productive? Learn how the Agile software development technique can be adapted to your help your next group project be a success.

Social Loafing (free riding) occurs when…

  • …group members don’t value the group goal
  • …individual contributions to the group effort cannot be measured
  • …a group member’s effort is duplicated (or even surpassed) by someone else
  • …a group member feels that he or she doesn’t have a unique skill to devote to the group effort
  • …when a group member feels that what he or she has been asked to do is harder than what others have been asked to do
  • …a group member doesn’t think (or doesn’t know) whether or that others in the group are working on the task (or how hard they are working on the task)


  • Everybody has to believe that the task is important
  • Assign roles to group members (note taker, time keeper, questioner, reporter, etc.)
  • The group has to know exactly what is expected, i.e., how will you know when the task is “done”?
  • make sure that the groups break down the larger goal (write a paper, do a project) into smaller “phases”
  • Ask each person in the group to “grade” themselves and everyone else in the group
  • Make sure that the group meets as often as possible – if not every day then every other day. Once a week is probably not often enough
  • use some Agile methods in these meetings: a) what have you done since the last meeting?, b) what are you planning to do before the next meeting?, c) is anything blocking you?

Articles on Social Loafing

  • Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 681-706
  • Shepperd, A. (1993). Productivity loss in performance groups: A motivation analysis, Psychological Bulletin, 113, 67-81.
  • The New Methodology by Martin Fowler
  • The Agile Journal – a discussion site for those interested in Agile
  • The Agile For All site. “Agile Bob” is the person who provided the training that I received in Agile. He’s an excellent trainer.



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  1. Ep 264: How To Make Study Groups Effective | The Psych Files

    February 12, 2010

    […] Related Episode: Social Loafing – Don’t Be a Sucker or a Free Loader! […]

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    February 12, 2010

    Hi Bob! You’re almost a legend where I work. Thanks for the great training sessions. I really learned a lot from you. I’m glad you enjoyed the episode as well.

  3. Avatar

    Bob Hartman

    February 12, 2010

    Michael, thanks for mentioning my blog! I see that you learned the lessons well. I love to see people actually start using some of the wording from training in other areas. Well done!

  4. Episode 116: Social Loafing – Don't Be a Sucker or a Free Loader … | Free Career Information

    February 12, 2010

    […] See the article here: Episode 116: Social Loafing – Don't Be a Sucker or a Free Loader … […]

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