An adept tennis player must either be in love with you or darned magnanimous to agree be your doubles partner when you play erratically – as I did.
Thankfully my then-husband was both. I had great fun playing my best games with him. He never complained. It was obvious to me and to the tolerant partners against whom we played that, while my performance went up in these games, his… dipped.
Yes there are downsides to groups. Yet research confirms that you get better at most any activity when at least one person in your group is more adept than you. In fact, their mere presence enables you to perform better, found social psychologist Norman Triplett.
• Racing cyclists ride faster when paced or in competition.
• In a study people were given three minutes to write down as many words as they could that were related to a word.
They were told they were not in competition with each other yet participants produced more words when others were present than when alone.
Unfortunately, when the tasks are more difficult, tension kicks in. We choke and do worse. Psychologists call this effect social inhibition.
Three factors contribute to our ability to perform better when around others:
2. Opposite sex audiences are more distracting: men are more inhibited on difficult tasks (but better on well-practised tasks) when watched by women and vice versa.
3. Good moods may in some situations help performance and bad moods inhibit it.
• Learn simpler tasks faster and enjoy yourself more by getting involved in a group (club, class, project, etc.) that Includes members who are better at the skill than you.
The conundrum? Recognizing the three factors, how can we learn faster in the presence of those of the opposite sex who are not paying much attention – and not feel at least slightly offended that we don’t have their full attention? What can help? Stay calm and focussed on the task, expecting to be liked.