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What is the Observer Effect and Why People Act Differently When They Are Being Filmed

What is the Observer Effect and Why People Act Differently When They Are Being Filmed

What is the Observer Effect?

The 'Observer Effect', in regards to body-worn video, is the phenomenon that causes individuals who might have been inclined to act aggressively, abusively or antisocially to modify their behavior when they know that they are being filmed or recorded. The act of filming events automatically means that the individual(s) in question can be held accountable for their actions. This is in fact, one of the major factors in the success of body cameras in the emergency services and security firms, along with wider use cases in alternative industries. 

Greg Seidel spent 25 years in the police force and now trains police on tactics and ethics. He notes that "cameras have a natural tempering effect. Knowing that everything you say and do can be up for public inspection will make everybody more cautious". Both members of the public and security personnel, emergency service workers and other individuals can take the opportunity to utilise body-worn video in potentially volatile situations to help provide a calming element.   

Benefits of the Observer Effect 

Law enforcement alone has seen a drastically reduced case in aggressive and abusive behavior due to the Observer Effect. The act of making both parties aware that the events are being recorded/filmed using a body-worn camera has shown a reduction in incidents that could have otherwise escalated. The 'cooling down' effect of body-worn cameras is partially down to the awareness that both parties can be held accountable for their actions with irrefutable evidence available if needed (i.e. video footage). 

Delivery drivers often call upon a body-worn camera when making deliveries to dangerous neighborhoods, remote locations or at unsociable hours. With the demand for urgent deliveries for both food and goods ever-increasing, so does the threat this poses to delivery drivers who can often find themselves exposed and in danger of having goods and money stolen or even coming to physical harm. Delivery drivers have started to use body-worn cameras to deter such behavior, while also being able to provide valuable evidence to their company and the authorities should anything occur in the line of work.

More and more individuals from industries across the board are benefiting from the advantages that body-worn video recording provides, such as deterring antisocial behavior through the Observer Effect.

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