The definitions of social facilitation and social loafing might seem to contradict each other. Does the presence of others help performance (social facilitation) or hinder it (social loafing)? This discrepancy will be clearer once their definitions are clarified. Social loafing requires collaborative work: everyone present must strive to complete the same goal. Social facilitation, however, does not require collaborative work. Social facilitation simply requires others to be present — they don’t need to be working to reach the same goal.
In the same study done by Lantané and colleagues in 1979 discussed above (whose aim was to replicate Ringelmann’s 1913 experiment findings), Lanté and colleagues found that instead of the previously attributed reason for social loafing being lack of coordination as stated originally by Ringelmann, there was a reduction in individual efforts due to causes stated above (Attribution and Equity, Submaximal Goal Setting, and Lessened Contingency Between Input and Outcome). This does not discredit whether social loafing exists, but simply provides more reasons to explain its occurrence.
A study done by Williams and Karau in 1991 found support for the social compensation hypothesis, which states that people tend to work harder in group settings than individually when they expect their group member to perform poorly on an important task. They studied participants working either collectively or collaboratively on an idea generation task, with expectations of group member performance being inferred from participant interpersonal trust scores, direct manipulations from a confederate group member statement of intended effort, or their ability at the task.12
This contradicts the first attributed cause cited by Latané and colleagues in 1979 above, as this study argues that when group members are perceived to put in less effort, the individual will put in more effort to compensate. On the other hand, Latané and colleagues state that individuals will put in less effort because they believe there is no reason to put in a lot of effort when those around them were shirkers. Perhaps more research needs to be done in order to understand the circumstances under which social loafing and social compensation apply.