How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person

I have found this interesting article, by Sander Van Der Linden. Which fits into my theme of identity and performance. In this article Linden is explaining how being watched makes you perform as a better person as you are less likely to do something wrong when someone is watching you, such as sticking gum under a table or not picking up dog poo in a public place when no one is around.

Hawthorne Effect and My Idea

The Hawthorne effect relates to my project as it is about how humans behaviour changes when they are being watched. Some people will work harder and perform better, they may change their behaviour due to the attention they are receiving.

Henry A. Landsberger described the hawthorne effect during his analysis of experiments conducted during the 1920s and 1930s at the Hawthorne works electric company. Hawthorne works electric company commissioned research to determine if people working in a certain environment for example, being watched by cameras would effect how they worked for the better.

    • “The original data have since been re-analysed, and it is not so clear whether the original results hold up. Nevertheless, the concept has been established – the very fact that people are under study, observation or investigation can have an effect on them and the results.”
      (Earl-Slater, 2002)
  • “One way to deal with the Hawthorne effect (and demand characteristics) is to observe the participants unobtrusively. This can be done using the naturalistic observation technique. However, this is not always possible for all behaviours. Another way to deal with the Hawthorne effect is to make the participants’ responses in a study anonymous (or confidential). This may eliminate some of the effects of this source bias.”
    (McBride, 2013)

Earl-Slater, A. (2002). The handbook of clinical trials and other research. London: Radliffe Medical Press.

McBride, D. M. (2013). The process of research in psychology. London: Sage Publications.

London Trip (research)

When I was walking around London I noticed an advertisement that had a man on it, the movements he was making caught my eye. He pointed in different directions, making hand gestures and seemed to make eye contact with you. This was enticing. Below you can see how the advertisement and I interacted.


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At first, the advertisement asks you if you can out stare it, and you touch the screen to start.


When you press the screen, It counts down to 0, and then you must keep looking at the advertisement or you lose. When you lose, you get a print out for a free trial for contact lenses. 20141212-112648.jpg


During the ‘staring contest’ the man made silly faces and tried to make you lose. 20141212-112725.jpg

When you win, you get congratulated and then you get given the option to print out a free trial for contact lenses. This experience has inspired me to use a video of someone to be interacted with in my processing piece. 20141212-112735.jpg


After London I have been researching videos which are similar to the advert that I interacted with. I have found two videos which are relevant to my chosen theory by Ervin Goffman. Both of these videos give the impression to the audience of being watched.

I like that this project seems to make people interacting with it more social. I think something like this could work well and be effective in the space for my project. This video makes the person viewing it feel watched by everyone interacting with it as well as seeing themselves. As this installation shows the audience it can make people want to act in a certain way because others can see them doing things as well as themselves seeing how they are acting.

The use of animation in the video makes it feel more fun to interact with, I think that because its an animated person rather than a real person, it is less intimidating to interact with. This video can make a person feel watched by the character, as it’s an animation it can cause a person to maybe act silly and jokey as they will not be judged by a cartoon.

From the two different types of videos you can see how people will act differently depending on who they are being watched by. I can take this into consideration when creating my project.

London Science Museum

Yesterday was a trip to the science museum, my goal for the trip was to view how people interacted with interactive installations and how the installations attract people to it. While viewing people at the installations i noticed a big difference between how people interacted with installations, depending on their age. While viewing the area, a group of school children, age range between 8 to 12, entered the space. they were immediately drawn to the metal pole that had a ‘do not touch’ sign displayed around it. The kids seemed to ignore the sign and touch the pole anyway. Adults were much more cautious to touch the pole and just watched or ignored it. This showed to me that a do not touch sign means nothing to kids and that they want to do what they can’t do. Once the children were bored of this, a few of them went to a game installation which had a big button and a joy stick. Kids seemed to ignore the information on the screen and wanted to skip this part and play the game straight away, they bashed on the button and got annoyed when it didn’t do anything and yanked on the joy stick. Young adults and teenagers seemed to take more time to read the instructions to understand the game.

When I left the museum, and walked past a bus shelter, i noticed it had an interactive advertisement which was for contact lenses. The advert had a person behind the screen that would notice you and try to coax you over with hand signals. The aim was to have a staring contest with the person behind the screen. To start it, you need to touch the screen and then not look away from the person otherwise you lose. When you lose the advert prints out a voucher for free contact lenses. If you win you got the choice to have the voucher or not.

Media Theory – Uses and Gratification

Uses and Gratifications model represents a change in thinking, as researchers began to describe the effects of the media from the point of view of audiences. The model looks at the motives of the people who use the media, asking why we watch the television programmes that we do, why we bother to read newspapers, why we find ourselves so compelled to keep up to date with our favourite soap. The underlying idea behind the model is that people are motivated by a desire to fulfil, or gratify certain needs. So rather that asking how the media uses us, the model asks how we use the media.

The model is broken down into four different needs, the need that I’m focusing on is:


The diversion need describes what’s commonly termed as escapism – watching the television so we can forget about our own lives and problems for a while and think about something else. This can work with positive programmes, such as holiday shows or the constant happy endings.

Requirements Gathering

Now that the independent dorset poster project is complete, I have a number of findings about the environment that will be used to display my interactive piece. There are two monitors which are available to be used; a long narrow screen and a standard rectangular screen. I think my idea will be best displayed on the rectangular screen because the screen is lower than the long screen, so this will make people seem to have eye contact with the person in my video, the length of the long narrow screen will also be wasted space as there is only one place of focus, which is the persons face in the video. Both screens are situated close to costa coffee, because the screens are facing costa coffees general area, the screens will only be seen/interacted with when people are walking in the direction of the exit. This is not a bad thing as this will provide a good full frontal view for the camera to notice. As the screens are near costa, this could mean that people will be more likely to view the screens as they wait for their coffee/food, or are queueing. From observations I have gathered that:

  • The area is busy at lunch time and ten minutes after and before lecturers.
  • The colours of the walls are bright and this can be distracting.
  • There are lots of screens.
  • The screens mostly display the news, without sound.
  • Lots of seating.
  • People spend more time rushing to where they need to be during peak times than standing around viewing the space.
  • Sofas are used by groups more than individuals.
  • There is a certain audience:
  1. Students, aged 18-30, male and female, studying a media related degree.
  2. Staff, lecturers, tutors.

20141212-112533.jpg 20141212-112503.jpg 20141212-112517.jpg With these observations I can conclude that my public display will be mainly just seen and maybe not understood during the peak time when people are rushing to and from lectures, but will probably be seen and interacted with during more idle times such as lunch times and quieter times when either friends are just hanging around or groups are meeting up or people are waiting in the queue for costa. The colours of the walls may be a problem when displaying my work as it may not be eye catching enough to pull peoples attention away from the bright colours in the room. The other screens may cause a problem in the room, especially if something is moving a lot on the other screens or if something major happens on the news. Lots of seating will hopefully mean that people sitting down in certain areas will have a good view of what my interactive piece does and may entice them over to interact with it.