Changing Minds

What is social loafing?

Social loafing is defined as a loss of motivation and/or effort when an individual is working in a group (Bonaccio, 2002). Social loafing decreases the productivity of individuals in the group and affects the qualities of their work, therefore, making the collective quality of work suffer. The lack of motivation affects the individuals desire to contribute. There are two kinds of motivation that could prevent social loafing, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. 

What is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation refers to when an individuals is doing a task because of the experience they’ll get from the task (Deci, 1995). An example of this kind of motivation is doing a hobby because an individual enjoys or is interested in it.

Extrinsic motivation refers to when an individual is doing a task because they will get something out of it. The outcome of their efforts could either be positive or to avoid the negative aspect of it. They could get rewarded in money, praise, or recognition; or could get punished reprimanded or shamed (Deci, 1995). 

How do you prevent social loafing?

Jennifer George, author of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Origins of Perceived Social Loafing in Organizations, proposed several theories that could minimize the occurrences of social loafing in a group setting. Here are her theories:

1. Task visibility is negatively related to social loafing
2. Individual’s intrinsic involvement in work is negatively associated with social loafing
3. Task visibility will dominate intrinsic task involvement in terms of relative ability to predict

social loafing in an ongoing organization
4. Intrinsic involvement moderates the relationship between task visibility and social loafing

such that the relationship is stronger when intrinsic involvement is low than when intrinsic involvement is high

Task visibility means that the individual efforts could be monitored by someone else. This could mean that the individual performing the work could get recognized or reprimanded depending on the quality of their work, employing the principle of extrinsic motivation or intrinsic motivation.

It is also important to note that recognition of individuals’ works and noting that their unique contributions. This way, the can view their efforts as useful, not replaceable or redundant. If they view their work as important, their output would be higher and they would be more involved with their work. On the other hand, however, if they do not view their work as important or highly unique, the risk of social loafing increases and may impair the quality of their work (George, 1992). 


Cherry, K. (n.d.). Differences between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation. Retrieved from

Meier, J. (n.d.). Social Loafing. Retrieved from