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The Hawthorne Effect: How Observation Helps You Maintain A Habit Change

Developing a habit isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

In fact, you often need as much help as possible to follow through.

One possible solution is to use a classic psychological principle to your advantage.

Specially, there’s a study called the Hawthorne Effect (or Observer Effect) which has been proven to improve performance in the completion of tasks.

In this article, we’ll talk about the Hawthorne Effect and how you can use it to reinforce good habits and eliminate bad habits.

Let’s get to it.

What is the Hawthorne Effect?

The term Hawthorne Effect was coined in the 1950’s based on a series of experiments that were originally conducted in the 1920’s.

In an industrial experiment which was conducted to see whether factory workers were more productive with a greater or lesser amount of ambient lighting, researchers found that productivity of BOTH groups increased from the control amounts.

After further experiments it became clear that this result happened because the test subjects knew they were being studied.

The lesson learned?

When people are being observed they want to look good and perform well.

It is human nature. If we know we’re being watched, it’s natural to increase our performance and give that little bit of extra effort.

The Hawthorne Effect and YOU.

How does this information help you form positive habits?

Well, if you’ve read other posts on DevelopGoodHabits.com, then you know that accountability is a critical part of habit development.  Whether you’ve trying to change a bad habit or reinforce a good one (like the building a writing routine and walking 10,000 steps a day), having accountability is an essential part of making it happen.

The Hawthorne Effect shows that we do better when we know we’re being watched and reviewed by others. So to improve your chances of success all you have to do is put yourself out there to be observed by others.

How to Implement The Hawthorne Effect

Saying, “put yourself out there” is simple enough, but you might wonder how to do it.  So let’s go over five ways you use the Hawthorne Effect to your advantage:

#1: Family and Friends. Tell those closest to you and you’ll get moral support from the people who love you most.

#2: Social Media. Twitter, Facebook or Google+ provide you with a powerful platform to stay on top of your habit change.  Simply promise you’ll post the results every day and you’ll get motivational messages to follow through.

#3: Accountability Partners  and Mastermind Groups. One of the reasons all the “Anonymous” groups are successful is because of the Hawthorne Effect.  Finding someone, or a group, who are trying to reach the same goal gives you a place to discuss problems and overcome obstacles.  Ultimately these people will help you avoid backsliding into a negative routine.

#4: Habit-Specific Tools and Apps.  Nowadays, there are a wide range of tools, software and apps that help you stay on top of a goal.  Not only do they track your performance, they also provide an opportunity to “compete” with your friends on the achievement of a goal.

For instance, not only does the FitBit count your daily steps, it also syncs with Facebook where you can measure the results against your peers.  You better believe this helps you stay motivated during those rainy days when you don’t feel like exercising.

#5: Blog. Blogs are cheap and easy to make. WordPress and Blogger are just two of the 100% free options to get started with blogging. If you are starting a diet, quitting smoking, creating an exercise routine or trying any other habit change, you can share your experiences with the world.

Blogging is beneficial because it provides a place for coalescing your thoughts and thinking through any challenges you’re currently experiencing.  In reality, not many people will read it, but you’ll still feel accountable because you know someone might stumble across it.

3 Steps for Getting Started with the Hawthorne Effect

It’s not hard to implement the Hawthorne Effect.

In fact, you can break it down into three easy steps:

  1. Identify a habit you’d like to develop (here are 203 ideas.)
  2. Focus on this new routine for the next 30 days.
  3. Add public accountability so people expect you to follow through.

Simple, right?

Since you now know that your performance improves when you’re being observed, it only makes sense to purposefully add some some form of public disclosure to every habit you develop.

Now it’s time to take action.

Follow these three steps for your next habit change and you’ll increase your chances of success. If you want some additional information you can check out some of these 175+ top self help books that may help you find more on the specific habit you are trying to change.

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