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Sports Psychology – Audience Effects

3. Zajonc et al. (1969)

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In this lecture, we think about Zajonc and colleagues’ 1969 study, focusing in particular on: (i) revisiting Zajonc’s drive theory, which proposes that it is the increased arousal brought about by an audience which increases performance, but that for those who are not an expert at the task, it can have the opposite effect; (ii) Zajonc’s 1969 study, which investigated social facilitation in cockroaches; (iii) Zajonc’s first findings that in the maze (difficult) condition, performance was impaired by a contender (pair) or audience, but in the runway (easy) condition, it was improved by the presence of a contender or audience; (iv) Zajonc’s second findings, that the partial presence condition (odour) had a distracting effect on performance; (v) Zajonc’s conclusion that the audience must be present to socially facilitate; (vi) limitations of this study, primarily being the fact that it isn’t directly applicable to humans.


In this course, Dr Matthew Slater (Staffordshire University) explores audience effects on athlete performance. In the first lecture, we think about the specific effects that the presence of an audience can have on athlete performance, including Triplett’s social facilitation theory and Zajonc’s drive theory. In the second lecture, we think about the positive impacts of a home advantage on the home team, the negative impacts that the home team’s advantage can have on the away team, as well as some potential hindrances playing an at home game can have on the home team’s performance. Next, we think about Zajonc and colleagues’ 1969 study, which explored social facilitation in cockroaches. In the fourth and final lecture, we think about strategies to improve team performance, focusing on inoculation and personal disclosure and mutual sharing (PDMS).


Dr Matthew Slater is associate professor in the School of Health, Science and Wellbeing at Staffordshire University. Dr Slater’s research interests include the social identity approach to leadership, team functioning and psychophysiological responses to stress. Some of Dr Slater’s recent publications include 'Cognitive appraisals and team performance under stress: A simulation study' (2020) and 'A brief mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention: investigating the effects with recreational runners' (2020).

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APA style

Slater, M. (2022, May 03). Sports Psychology – Audience Effects - Zajonc et al. (1969) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Slater, M. "Sports Psychology – Audience Effects – Zajonc et al. (1969)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 May 2022,

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