Wednesday, 12 December 2012

How sharing works.

Let me take you back to the year 1924. We're at the Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works in Illinois, a factory whose workers manufacture relays - electromagnetic switches used in telephone equipment - and researchers are interested in the employees' productivity. How do changes in their environment and working conditions affect their output?

Over the course of five years, the experimenters change all manner of variables: the illumination, the duration and spacing of breaks, providing food or not during these breaks etc. And all the time, they're keeping track of the work performed.

In a slightly over-simplified nutshell, the results were unexpected. When the lights were made brighter, for instance, output went up. But then, when the lights were subsequently dimmed back down again, output went... up again. In fact, more or less what happened was that each change in working conditions saw a corresponding boost in productivity.

Now although some contemporary researchers challenge some of the study's findings, many consider that it demonstrated an important psychological principle: that when people believe they are being observed, their behaviour may change in a positive way. In the case of the Western Electric workers, their response to the interest shown in them by the experimenters was to work harder.

The study gave rise to a 'Hawthorne Effect' which is commonly referred to in psychology.

I've told you this story as some psychologists suggest that this could be partly what causes the effectiveness of the buddying process in Moodscope. When you share scores with someone else, you're aware that they will be interested in your progress. You may hope that between you, you'll be able to lift your mood, and it's possible that this could motivate you to behave in ways which might make this happen: it could be that you're more likely to do things (get better sleep, take exercise, connect with others for instance) that may make you feel better.

But even if you don't share your scores, tracking them with Moodscope can help - and this can't have anything to do with the Hawthorne Effect of course. So what's going on? Psychologists have suggested to me that it may be as simple as being able to see the outcome of different types of behaviour: you get evidence that doing one thing brings you down, while doing another lifts you, enabling you to do less of the former and more of the latter.

Yet another school of thought borrows from the world of business: if you can't measure it, you can't measure it. Perhaps mood tracking makes sense because it acts like the dashboard of a car or your central heating's thermostat? Some of the extra tools in Moodscope Plus can really open your eyes to your underlying emotional changes.

So what do you think? Please share your thoughts with the rest of our band of Moodscopers by commenting below.