The Hawthorne effect, also known as the observer effect, is when individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.
Researchers at Newcastle University, UK, conducted a field experiment demonstrating that merely hanging up posters of staring human eyes is enough to significantly change people’s behavior.
People often present the best versions of themselves when being watched, but out of the gaze of members of their community, work colleagues, bosses, friends, family, or partners, they behave in less than stellar ways.
The yetzer hara, the so-called ‘evil inclination’ seems to flourish in the dark places, the secret places, out sight of others, while the yetzer hatov, the ‘good inclination’, thrives in the light, in the sight of others who can hold us accountable for our behaviour.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” And it’s good advice. It encourages us to be accountable to others and to ask the question, “What would someone else think of me if they observed or heard me doing or saying this?”
But we also need to step back and observe ourselves and perhaps ask the question, “What would I think of someone else if I saw them doing this, or heard them saying this?” That makes us accountable to ourselves.