How a 1920’s discovery can help you today

This weekend I’ll be travelling to London to present the Miss England Final. I’ll be combining presenting on stage with keeping the contestants calm and confident backstage.

Part of the show this year is an “Eco” round where instead of buying something new, the girls have to re-cycle clothing from yesteryear and make it stand out today.

It got me thinking about psychological studies and research from the past that has stood the test of time and can still be extremely useful today.

The Hawthorne Effect

In 1927 a research project was started at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Illinois USA. The researchers wanted to study the effect on workers’ productivity under different types of physical and environmental conditions. These ranged from lighting conditions to working hours, allowed breaks to management styles. Some groups were given much improved working conditions whilst others were subjected to horrendous conditions.

During the study, something truly remarkable was discovered. The major finding was that regardless of whether the workers were given improved conditions or worse conditions, productivity consistently improved amongst all groups. It seemed that regardless of what changes the researchers tested, individual production increased.

The conclusion that the researchers came to was that individuals’ behaviours may be altered because they know they are being studied. This has come to known as the Hawthorn Effect.

It’s as true today as it’s always been and we see it so often all around us. Friends who have used well known slimming groups have told me that even if they don’t stick to the “rules” they will starve themselves towards the end of the week as they know they will be weighed; someone is monitoring them!

Have you ever noticed how joggers, when they notice people ahead, suddenly straighten their bodies, puff out their chests and give it that little extra effort? They know they’re being watched.

So how can this help you in what you’re striving for?

Pick an area of your life that you’d like to improve and start monitoring it. Even better, find someone that you know and trust to be your monitor. Share with them what you are trying to achieve and get them to check in with you twice a week. See how much more you do when you know someone has an interest. Have fun experimenting.

Pay it Forward

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