A 2006 study in a German hospital found that simply telling staff that their “hygienic performance” was being monitored improved hand washing by 55%.
In another study, two groups of teenagers were told they would be using a new kind of toothpaste. One group were told they would be monitored, the second group were told they wouldn’t be. After three months the first group had reduced their plaque levels from 70 to 54 percent. The second group had gotten a little lazier, with plaque scores of 78 percent. The only difference was that half of the kids knew they were being monitored and the other half did not.
One more example: The national weight control registry contains a database of more than 5000 individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight and manage it keep it off. Since 1994 the registry had conducted surveys of the successful losers in hopes of identify strategies that work. The most powerful factor is simply stepping on a scale. 80% of registry applicants weigh themselves at least once a week, and more than a third weigh themselves daily. And when daily scale steppers dropped off their monitoring, they began to eat more, and sure enough they started to gain the weight back.
When you pay attention to your behavior you subconsciously invoke positive results simply by continuing to observe your behavior. It’s called The Hawthorne Effect: a phenomenon where individuals improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. This idea can be applied to our own lives by tracking our behavior. Want to spend more time with family, loose weight, read more books, watch less TV? Measure it.