The Hawthorne Effect

I have recently been introduced to a psychological theory known as the Hawthorne effect, observer effect. The Hawthorn effect is a type of reactivity in which individuals improve or modify their behaviour in response to them knowing they’re being watched. The original study took place in a business setting where they were experimenting with different levels of light to see if it made the workers more or less productive. Though the results of the study showed an increase in productivity no matter what the lighting, but when the experiment was over (and they were no longer being observed) productivity dropped again. They concluded that the increase in productivity was due to a motivational effect as the workers were being watched and interest was showed in them and their activities.

I have touched on an idea like this in a previous blog post about a psychological experiment about how being watched changes behaviour. While this isn’t directly related to my product (as I’m not measuring productivity or things like that) it does help to exemplify my idea of people changing behaviour and reacting to being observed. In my face swapping project, the participants (willing or otherwise) are being observed by a camera and it is being shown on one of the screens. In theory, this in itself should change people’s behaviour as they become aware of them being watched, especially as it is out of the norm for the media foyer space as there isn’t usually a camera watching them. With their representations being altered (i.e face swapped) it should further influence their behaviour as notice and hopefully play around with it.

Arguably, none of this may be true as the experiment involved a person (or group of people) doing the observing rather than a camera and that is far more obtrusive and would have a larger effect on people’s behaviour in my opinion. However I have high hopes for it working providing the interactive nature of the piece is obvious enough and people are interested.


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