Transform Your Work Dynamics and Embrace Collaborative Productivity with Ringelmann Effect
Human Resources

Tug On The Ringelmann Effect To Start Acing Your Productivity


A man named MaxRingelmann observed something unusual in people around 1913. Ringelmann, a French agricultural engineer, grabbed a rope and had people tug on it individually.

Then he invited a group of those same folks to tug on the rope. He noticed that when people pulled in a group, they exerted less effort than when they pulled alone.

This is also known as the Ringelmann effect or social loafing.

It refers to the fact that as the size of a group grows, individual output tends to decline. And it isn’t limited to tug-of-war games: more than a century after Ringelmann‘s discovery, it can be found in businesses like Google and Facebook.

There’s a good possibility it’s occurring at your place of work as well.

Definition Of Ringelmann Effect 

The Ringelmann effect describes how, as a group grows, it becomes less productive regarding production per member.

Max Ringelmann (1861–1931), a French agricultural engineer who investigated the productivity of horses, oxen, men, and machinery of diverse farm applications, inspired the effect.

He discovered groups outperform individuals, but adding members yields diminishing returns.

Production loss stems from reduced motivation and larger group inefficiencies.

Cause Of The Ringelmann Effect

Groups struggle to attain their full potential, according to Ringelmann, since numerous interpersonal processes subtract from the group’s overall proficiency. 

Two different processes have been recognized as potential drivers of lower group productivity:

motivation loss and coordination issues

Motivational Decline

Motivation loss, also known as social loafing (and not to be confused with burnout), is a drop in exerted individual effort found when people operate in groups rather than alone.

Motivational loss | Ringelmann Effect

According to Ringelmann, group members rely on their coworkers or co-members to put in the effort for a standard duty.

Group members perceive full effort, but research shows hidden loafing.

The following is a list of some of these options:

Increase identifiability

People are more motivated to put more effort into collective work when they believe their thoughts or outputs are recognizable (e.g., subject to review).

This is because when a job is easy and individualistic, individuals are anxious about being judged by others (evaluation anxiety), which increases productivity through social facilitation.

Anonymity fosters social loafing and lower productivity.

Reduce free-riding

People who engage in social loafing often fail to contribute to the standard because they assume others will compensate for their weaker team members. As a result, individual members should feel like they are an essential part of the team.

Members are more likely to work harder to achieve collective goals if they believe their own responsibilities within the group to be more important.

A comparable impact may be accomplished by shrinking the group size since each member’s function becomes increasingly important as the group size reduces, decreasing the potential to loosen.

The increased effort of group members’ engagement in the work or goal at hand

Another way to decrease social loafing is to increase group members’ involvement in the activity or goal.

This can be accomplished by turning the job into a friendly competition among group members or by attaching incentives or punishments to the task based on the group’s overall performance.

Similarly, social compensation may discourage loafing by persuading individual group members that the objective at hand is essential but that their colleagues are uninspired to achieve it.

Coordination Problems

Individuals’ group performance depends on their effort (e.g., abilities, skills, and effort) and the different interpersonal dynamics inside the group.

Even if group members have the skills and knowledge needed to perform a task, they may be unable to coordinate their efforts effectively.

Hockey fans, for example, may believe that a particular club has the highest chance of winning merely because it comprises all-star players. If a team member cannot correctly coordinate their activities during gameplay, their overall performance will suffer.

Coordination issues among people’s efforts quickly diminish, according to Steiner (1972), and are caused by the demands of the tasks to be completed.

If a task is unitary (i.e., cannot be broken down into subtasks for individual members), requires output maximization (i.e., a high rate of production quantity), and requires personal motivation among members to produce a group product, a group’s potential performance is dependent on its members’ ability to coordinate with one another.

Why are Small Teams Strategically Beneficial?

Entropy, which occurs in teams due to unchecked rapid development, stymies progress and generates disorder and confusion. It can cause significant holes in a team’s foundation if left unchecked.

Much like the Ringelmann effect in team dynamics, artificial intelligence in agriculture can help optimize resource allocation and productivity by ensuring that each system component functions at its optimal capacity.

It can be combated in a variety of ways. One of the simplest is to deal with squad composition. The Ringelmann Effect refers to the fact that team members become less productive as the size of a team grows.

Scrum, too, promotes a small team as a success tenet.

Small design or engineering teams have a considerable advantage in the four essential qualities listed below.


The larger the team, the more difficult it is to achieve alignment. And a lack of alignment makes it more challenging to make a strong impression.

It is comparatively easy to achieve alignment in a small group. The explanation is simple: the larger the group, the more work it takes to nudge them in the correct direction.

Slightly fewer members are, the easier the coaching team towards the north star.


The larger the team size, the greater the communication effort required for optimal collaboration. Scrum routines like daily standups and retrospectives take longer as the team grows.

(It’s no wonder that Scrum recommends keeping teams to a maximum of seven people.) As a result, as the group grows more extensive, more time is spent communicating, leaving less time for development and poor communication that may lead to team managers having to engage in issue management to avoid a crisis.


The tighter the team is linked to each other, the smaller it is. As the team grows, the distance between the electrons, individuals, and the team’s nucleus grows.

Some of these electrons may get free and move to another atom’s outermost orbit (another team or another company).

On the other hand, people in small teams are more closely connected since they spend so much time together, eliminating social loafing. It’s easier to get to know one another, ask for support, and exchange ideas when fewer individuals are on a team.

It also aids in the formation of solid relationships that propel the team to victory.

The Ringelmann Effect – Background and History

Max Ringelmann was fascinated by different elements of agricultural efficiency. He was mainly concerned with the factors that make draught animals like horses, oxen, and men more or less efficient at their jobs.

Ringelmann‘s study is among the first systematic social psychology studies. His study reflects some of the oldest known human factors research, as he was also interested in how animals and men may be more efficient.

At the time of his original research, the human factors element was the primary emphasis. In contrast, individual and group performance comparisons were just a secondary concern.

In some of his preliminary studies, Ringelmann used male volunteers to pull horizontally on a rope for around 5 seconds. Participants tugged on a rope alone in groups of seven or fourteen. During this time, a dynamometer (a device that measures the maximum force exerted) was utilized to record their maximum pulling effort.

The average force applied by those who pulled alone was 85.3 kg per individual. The mean pressure exerted per person was 65.0 kg and 61.4 kg, respectively, when participants pulled in 7- and 14-person groups.

As a result, as the size of the group grew more prominent, the average force exerted per member dropped. Ringelmann reported similar effects when participants were asked to push a crossbar attached to a two-wheeled cart. Participants exerted higher pressure (170.8 kg) when they pushed alone than when they pushed jointly with another person (154.1 kg).

A Curvilinear Relationship

One of Ringelmann‘s most well-known discoveries is his study of relative group performance as a function of group size in groups ranging from one to eight members. According to his prior studies, the individual effort was reduced as a function of group size.

For example, if one worker’s total force was 1.00, the pressure exerted by two through eight employees was 1.86, 2.55, 3.08, 3.50, 3.78, 3.92, and 3.92, demonstrating a curvilinear relationship between group size and group performance.

The overall force exerted by the group dropped as the size grew. Still, the difference between two and three-person groups was higher than between four and five-person groups, and the difference between seven and eight-person groups was still more minor.

Ringelmann did not indicate what sorts of jobs these statistics were based on, which is interesting. They may or may not have come from rope-pulling-specific research, as is commonly thought.

He identified two possible causes for this drop in individual performance when working in groups. The first was the result of a lack of coordination. For example, two individuals tugging on a rope would be more coordinated (and hence more likely to be in sync) than a group of seven or eight people pulling together.

This, according to Ringelmann, was the most plausible explanation. Nonetheless, he admitted that such an impact might result from a drop in drive. 

Summing Up the Ringelmann Effect

That’s fantastic, but how can we combat the Ringelmann effect on a personal level? How can we prevent it from happening in the first place?

It’s relatively simple; no social science knowledge is necessary. But, ask yourself, “How can I be of service?”

If you’re in charge, dividing your large staff into smaller pods is a good idea. It’s simpler to develop ordinary meaning and assist everyone in understanding their group effort with smaller pods. Then, devise rituals for these pods to engage with one another and see whether they are all marching in the same direction, such as a scrum among scrums. Then, despite your rising size, you should be able to fulfill your goal for success.


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