The Effects of Social Facilitation on CrossFitters or Move Your Ass, People are Watching

back squat

I’ve been partnered with quite a few people, and I’ve noticed a trend in myself:

If someone currently lifts more than me, I don’t push myself, because I know I can’t ‘keep up.’

If someone currently lifts less than me,  I don’t push myself, because I’m lazy.

But this week I shared a rack with someone who had the exact same one rep max for back squats.

And there was one clear thought in my head saying: “If she can do it, you can too!”

Psychologists call this Social Facilitation.

I call it Move Your Ass Because Your Partner is Watching!

Social Facilitation simply means that performance tends to improve when other people are around. Psychologists have two categories that go along with this: the co-action effect and the audience effect.

The co-action effect is when you are working independently, but someone else is doing the same task.

The audience effect is when people from the next class arrive early and stare while you squat.

With Anja, there was definitely the co-action effect going on.

I didn’t feel competitive (as in some egoistic need to add more weight than prescribed); rather, I felt like we were in it together:  increasing the same weight and pushing through the same reps and celebrating when we accomplished it.

Watching her achieve the reps so elegantly motivated me to push through, at least without falling over backwards.

Anja sets the bar high.

Well…not literally, since I’m two feet taller than she is.

But, she works hard and has great form, which, in turn, set in me a more determined mindset and positive way of thinking.

When you see someone achieve the goal you have set for yourself, laziness is not an option.

According to the experts (some random blog I pulled up while doing this research), Social Facilitation has many dynamics that can’t be calculated. Sometimes people become inhibited and perform poorly in front of others. Thus, the effects of Social Facilitation largely depend on the performer, the task and how much she really cares about being evaluated by others.

I would add, that performance is also influenced by the type of audience. There’s a difference between a coach lurking around (and constantly telling you “Go deeper!”) and a five year-old gazing at you whilst hanging upside down on the rings next to your rack.

And there are other dynamics at play as far as individual personalities. Some people just make me nervous when they’re watching. But with others, their presence inspires me to do better.

I don’t think there’s any kind of schematic that can adequately explain it.

Our personalities, thoughts, behaviors, actions, even our pasts can influence the dynamics at the box. Just as billions of chemical reactions go on in your brain at any given moment, so the nuances of interpersonal relations vary depending on billions of factors.

The point is that sometimes you find someone who inspires and motivates you in a peculiar blend of teamwork and friendly rivalry.

It’s just another way CrossFit is unlike any environment I’ve ever known. You compete with yourself, yet you want to keep up with your peers. And if you finish second, you’re truly happy for the person in first place and the person in fiftieth–because you’re all working hard together.

As individuals.

Yet side by side.

Lifting heavy shit.

Last week I deadlifted 82,5 kg for nine reps.

Anya came along in the next class and did 85.

Does 2,5 kg really make a difference?

Yeah. It does.

Next time, I’m trying 90.

In a friendly sort of way.

But if Anja can do it, I can too. 

Now I have to work on my pull-ups. Because she can do them. And I can’t (yet).






About Keri

Writer, widow, life story coach, expat, Mom of 4, madly in love with Crossfit and Krav Maga--my life is stranger than fiction View all posts by Keri

One response to “The Effects of Social Facilitation on CrossFitters or Move Your Ass, People are Watching

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