In his book “The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date,” Samuel Arbesman introduced me to the Hawthorne Effect, which is “when subjects behave differently if they know they are being studied.  The effect was named after what happened in a factory called Hawthorne Works outside Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s.”

“Scientists wished to measure,” Arbesman explained, “the effects of environmental changes on the productivity of workers.  They discovered whatever they did to change the workers’ behaviors — whether they increased the lighting or altered any other aspect of the environment — resulted in increased productivity.  However, as soon as the study was completed, productivity dropped.  The researchers concluded that the observations themselves were affecting productivity and not the experimental changes.”

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