You may have read or heard about the observer effect. It dictates that in their act of measuring, observers influence the phenomenon being observed. It suggests that it is not possible to observe or measure anything without affecting the behavior of that thing. We would like to extend this notion to people, on a broader scale. Have you ever asked yourself if the person you are interacting with is the fully authentic version of themselves?
In this article we will make the case that the answer to that question is always no. All humans, including yourself, are prone to being influenced by the observer effect. Humans change their behavior based on whether or not they are being watched, and tend to subconsciously change their behavior when they know a pair of eyes may see them. When you exit your house and walk into the public world in the morning, you automatically shift into a public version of yourself. To the people who see you for the first time, the image they see presented at that moment is what they will understand you as going forward.
These changes in behavior and way of being by others are not performed with malicious intentions. People change who they are in order to ‘survive’ in the world that they live in. Some of our habits and tendencies may not be well-suited for being analyzed by others, so we change them. We present to the world who we want to be understood as by others. This is a tool that some people use better than others, but a tool that most people use nonetheless.
You need to keep in mind that all your interactions are being influenced by subconscious forces which change the behavior of the people that you interact with. Sad as it may sound, you may not fully understand anyone in your life – even those who you call close. The only people we have a hope of truly knowing are ourselves, and you can only hope to get close to knowing the nature of others by thoroughly observing your own way of being.
Trusting Your Judgement
You should remember this fact the next time you become a fan of somebody or an enemy of another. Your relationships are built upon the unstable grounds of the observer effect, whether they are good or bad. Your judgement of other people may be based on fallacy, so you should always be auditing your opinions of others with this information. Also know that any hate and malicious behavior you experience from others is their own understanding of you which may be (and probably is) inaccurate in itself.
The next time you make a judgement about somebody you meet or interact with, know that your judgement may be based on falsehood, forcing you not to completely trust it. You need to be okay with the fact that you will never truly know what anybody is really like when they’re around you. This will help you in both family and professional life by managing your expectations of others. This thought pattern will suppress the element of surprise when you discover unattractive traits of others which were hidden to you before.