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The observer effect refers to several things in different situations, though there are similarities.

Use in science[edit | edit source]

In science, the observer effect refers to changes that the act of observing has on the phenomenon being.

affect the current or the voltage they are measuring. Likewise, a standard mercury-in-glass thermometer must absorb some thermal energy to record a temperature, and therefore changes the temperature of the body which it is measuring.


prepared they generally are.

In parapsychology, the observer effect refers to the phenomenon that when the person performing the tests (the phrase was coined by two friends performing an experiment wherein they set up a number of volunteers who had to press the button when they felt they were being watched by the experimenters) expects to get positive results, he does, and likewise when he expects negatives.

Observer bias[edit | edit source]

The related social-science term observer bias is error introduced into measurement when observers overemphasize behavior they expect to find and fail to notice behavior they do not expect. This is why medical trials are normally double-blind rather than single-blind. Observer bias can also be introduced because researchers see a behavior and interpret it according to what it means to them, whereas it may mean something else to the person showing the behavior. See subject-expectancy effect and observer-expectancy effect.

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