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#23 - The Hawthorne Effect

Sent the October 13th
Author face
Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

How can we get unbiased data from actual user cases? Watch them.

It seems easy or very silly, but it is one of the most basic and successful techniques that can exist within research, as it can be a process that goes totally wrong, or on the contrary, that we get out a quite significant amount of qualitative data.

In the vast majority of situations, the process is more than simple: we define the research question for the session, the objective users, a question script and a subsequent data analysis phase.

The important thing here, if it is possible, is never to reveal our position in the case where we can at a legal level, why? In the case where this person feels that he or she is being observed he or she will condition his or her behaviour, biasing the contextual observation; this is known as the Hawthorne effect.

This phenomenon is a psychological reaction that occurs when a person feels they are being observed, improving their ability to demonstrate their skills to the observer if it is a simple task, or generating pressure by the inability to meet the fictitious objectives they have set in their head, thinking they are not worth enough or that they are discontenting the observer.

And how do I not bias the participant? This effect is produced when the person knows that he is being observed, the artificiality of the situation, the belief that he is being evaluated... but it can be corrected by establishing a link with the tester, talking before the session, empathising and creating a pleasant and warm climate for both; the aim is for him to be at ease and not to think that he is being evaluated in any way.

Remember that if you want to take photos, identify the user, or collect any sensitive information you must ask for written permission, don't be a pirate!

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