Ringelmann effect: what it is and how it affects the performance of groups

When people are faced with tasks that require the sum of the efforts of each team member to achieve a group goal, there is a tendency to put in less effort as the group size increases. This is known as the Ringelmann effect, And occurs when the individual effort is confused among those of the group of people who collaborate with each other.

In this article, we will know the origin of this effect, why it occurs and how it can be combated.

    Ringelmann effect: origin

    The Ringelmann effect is a phenomenon of social psychology and group psychology, proposed by Maximilien Ringelmann, (1861-1931), a French engineer. Mr. Ringelmann developed a series of studies between 1882 and 1887, in which he observed the action of pulling a rope, both of individuals individually and in groups of two, three and eight people.

    Specifically, his studies aimed to discover the efficiency of agricultural tasks, where he observed that when a group of people pulled a rope, which is linked to an instrument measuring the pulling force, the larger the group of people, the smaller the force that each individual uses to pull.

    Thus, he observed that the relative performance of each person individually gradually decreased as the number of them in each group increased. In other words, that is to say the individual contribution has been reduced in proportion to the increase in the number of people who collaborated in the action. Maximilian called this phenomenon the Ringelmann effect.

    In 1913, Max Ringelmann’s research was published. In them it has been shown that group or collective effort as a team, It only achieves half the sum of individual efforts, contrary to popular belief that “there is strength”.


    The Ringelmann effect is defined as the loss of performance per subject as the size of the group increases (the number of its members increases). This effect is also known as free riding or “fight for nothing”. This appears because the contribution itself is considered unnecessary.

    Steiner was an author who proposed that the nature of the task predicts the performance of the group. In this case, the Ringelmann effect appears in three types of tasks:

    1. Additive tasks

    These are tasks that involve more people, higher performance, or potential productivity. In this type of task, the group result is equal to the sum of the contributions of each person.

    In this case, the Ringelmann effect appears because the limbs think (consciously or unconsciously) that work “others will already do it”.

    2. Disjunctive tasks

    In this type of task, the best option and the best performance of the group are selected it is determined by the performance of the most competent.

    Here, the Ringelmann Effect appears in unqualified subjects, as being a type of task where the best option is selected as ‘winner’, these members would feel that they are not good enough to come up with anything (since they will not be selected), and therefore stop participating or reduce their effort.

    3. Conjunctive tasks

    Here all the members of the group they work at the same time, in unison. In this case, the Ringelmann effect appears in the conjunctive tasks of large groups, specifically in very skillful subjects, because by acting in one fell swoop, the more skillful “relax” and decrease their performance, which they deem useless. .

    Another type of group task

    There are two other types of group tasks:

    • compensatory: The result is the average of the group members.
    • discretionary: It is a question of deciding between the various proposals of the members.

    the causes

    The Ringelmann effect appears due to possible causes.

    On the one hand, it is probable that team members may feel less motivated when performing additive tasks (Where the end result is determined by each person’s performance) because they subconsciously think that “others will already”.

    On the other hand, individual performance may be reduced by a lack of coordination among the members of the group.

    Thus, in group experiments specific to social psychology, it has been observed how people believe or feel that they are being evaluated, only when they act alone.

    In this way, team situations or tasks decrease individual responsibility. people are not directly responsible for the results, And therefore do not assess their own efforts, causing them to reduce or even eliminate them.

      How to fight against its effect on computers?

      To combat the Ringelmann effect it is important to increase the motivation of team members. To do this, it is advisable to ensure that their individual performance is identifiable, that is to say that they feel “important elements” of the group, essential elements to achieve the result or the group objective. wish.

      If members feel this way, and if they can also identify their individual contribution in concrete ways, it is very likely that they will put more effort into group work.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Morales, JF (2007). Social psychology. Published by SA McGraw-Hill / Interamericana España.
      • Hogg, M. (2010). Social psychology. VAUGHAN GRAHAM M. Panamericana, Editorial: Panamericana.
      • Marin, M. (2012). Social psychology of group processes. Pyramid.

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