The performance of flight crew when subjected to an evaluation under simulated or real conditions can be very different as compared to a normal line flight. It may deteriorate in some cases and may even improve in others. How do humans perform when working in a group and being judged at the same time, determines their performance.
The three main factors that affect the performance are:
- Objective self awareness
- Social facilitation, and
These three factors each affect performance as a function of their magnitude and direction. In general, task performance is facilitated by a low anxiety state, presence of others, and-subjective self awareness. High anxiety levels, objective self-awareness, and absence of others tend to debilitate performance.
Objective self awareness
Self-awareness theory (Duval & Wicklund, 1972) distinguishes between subjective self-awareness, in which attention is directed to events external to the self, and objective self-awareness, where the individual is the object of his/her own attentional focus. With objective self-awareness, attention is directed toward self-perception and current performance is evaluated according to an internalized standard of excellence, i.e., the individual is occupied in a process of self judgment.
The effect of objective self-awareness conditions is to redefine attentional focus. Attention previously utilized in world perception must now, to some degree, be used for- self-monitoring processes.
Social facilitation effects (Zajonc, 1965) refer to the increment in performance often observed when individuals work in the presence of relevant others. Within this framework, the individual directs some portion of his attention to perception of others and possibly engages in comparison of current performance with social standards of acceptability; i.e., the individual is again occupied in a process of self-judgment.
Performance increments are observed as long as the task requires emission of dominant responses. With unfamiliar tasks, the attentional split between world perception and self-monitoring processes results in performance decrements.
Anxiety is a subjectively experienced painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind, often occurring with a concurrent autonomic nervous system arousal. Although personality theorists deal with the origin, focus, and process of anxiety responses in different manners, the consensus seems to suggest that anxiety is the result of an organismic response to a perceived discrepancy between the self’s current performance and some standard of reference, with probable effects on behavior, self-perception, self and social judgments. Anxiety affects self awareness as a function of the amount of experienced anxiety, the salience of the threat, and the capacity of the individual to tolerate anxiety.
Anxiety, objective self-awareness, and social facilitation each affect the attentional focus of the experiencing individual. The self is engaged in monitoring both internal processes and external events and continuously evaluating the adequacy of performance within the current situation. If the self-monitoring process monopolizes available attention and competes with perception of external task-relevant cues, decrements in performance are to be expected. As long as anxiety, objective self-awareness, and social facilitation are low, the self is engaged primarily in monitoring external events to the exclusion of self-monitoring processes. Performance of unlearned or novel tasks is expected to be facilitated by these conditions.
In general, highly anxious subjects tend to engage in self deprecation and self-preoccupation while in the anxiety provoking situation. They blame themselves for their failures, even when the failure was determined arbitrarily, significantly more than do low anxious subjects (Doris & Sarason, 1955). This process of negative self-evaluation for anxious subjects seems to operate independently of judgments of actual performance.
Presence of others tends to debilitate task performance for subjects high in test anxiety and to facilitate performance for low-anxiety subjects.
In objective self-awareness (OSA), attention is directed inward; that is, the individual is the object of his/her own consciousness and will compare the self with an internalized standard of excellence derived through social influence and individual world experience. The relationship between objective self-awareness and self-esteem depends on the amount of discrepancy experienced during self-evaluation. The magnitude of the discrepancy may directly influence the amount of experienced anxiety, assuming a constancy in task relevance, amount of ego-involvement, and other situational and personal variables.
The magnitude and direction of these social facilitation effects depend on the specific task, the setting, and interpersonal relations among group members (Kelley & Thibaut), 1969). In general, the task characteristics which influence performance include task complexity, amount of prior exposure to similar tasks, and the relative dominance of response patterns. Performance on simple tasks which require emission of previously acquired skills or dominant responses tends to be positively affected by presence of others. A gain in speed and quality of response emission is observed in both togetherness and group situations for simple tasks. These tasks involve simple motoric responses and overlearned cognitive skills such as pursuit-rotor (Travis, 1925), signal detection (Bergum & Lehr, 1963), and syllable recall (Pessin, 1925).
Performance of more complex tasks requiring the acquisition of new responses such as learning nonsense syllables (Cottrell, Wack, Sekerak, & Rittle, 1968; Zajonc & Sales, 1966) tends to be impaired by the presence of others. When an audience is present, the individual may show increased efforts to attain high standards in order to reduce the discrepancy between aspirations and current performance, particularly if the audience is perceived as possessing expertise in the task area or implies evaluation.
Four general conclusions can be drawn from the literature reviews:
- Anxiety, self-awareness, and the facilitating presence of others each affect the individual’s attentional focus.
- Social facilitation improves performance on simple or well learned tasks positively while impairing performance on more complex or novel tasks.
- Objective self-awareness conditions appear to motivate the individual to attempt to improve task performance while concurrently occupying a portion of the available attentional time in self monitoring procedures.
- Low anxiety tends to facilitate task performance while high anxiety debilitates performance.