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Group membership salience and task performance

Rolf van Dick (Institute of Psychology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany)
Jost Stellmacher (Institute of Psychology, Philipps‐University Marburg, Marburg, Germany)
Ulrich Wagner (Institute of Psychology, Philipps‐University Marburg, Marburg, Germany)
Gunnar Lemmer (Institute of Psychology, Philipps‐University Marburg, Marburg, Germany)
Patrick A. Tissington (Work and Organisational Study Group, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 18 September 2009




Social loafing is described in the literature as a frequent problem reducing individuals' performance when working in groups. This paper aims to utilize the social identity approach and proposes that under conditions of heightened group salience social loafing can be reduced and turned into social laboring (i.e. increased performance).


Two experimental studies are conducted to examine the impact of participant's group membership salience on task performance. In Study 1, school teachers work either in coactive or in collective working conditions on brainstorming tasks. In Study 2, participants perform both a brainstorming task and a motor task.


The results show social laboring effects. As predicted, participants in the high salient group conditions outperform participants in the low salient group conditions and the coactive individual condition.

Practical implications

The results indicate that rather than individuating group members or tasks to overcome social loafing, managers can increase group performance by focusing on group members' perceptions of their groups as important and salient.


The studies presented in this paper show that social identity theory and self categorization theory can fruitfully be applied to the field of group performance. The message of these studies for applied settings is that collective work in groups must not necessarily negatively impact performance, i.e. social loafing. By heightening the salience of group memberships groups can even outperform coactively working individuals.



van Dick, R., Stellmacher, J., Wagner, U., Lemmer, G. and Tissington, P.A. (2009), "Group membership salience and task performance", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 609-626.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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