The Hawthorne Effect

Just how much can our minds affect our bodies?

Consider the Hawthorne Effect. It works like this. Let’s say you wake up with a pain in your neck. It persists, so you seek treatment from your doctor who prescribes a medication to bring down any inflammation and to help with the pain. The Hawthorne Effect states that you will make other related decisions which will reduce your symptoms, or at least, they will reduce your perception of the symptoms.

For example, because your neck is hurting, you might change the pillows you sleep with.  Or, when you come home from work, you use a heating pad for a few hours in the evening. Or, throughout the course of the day, you adjust your posture to a more neck-friendly stance.

When the pain you felt in your neck goes away, was it due to the medication your doctor prescribed? Or, because of the other choices you made to make your neck more comfortable? Or, both?

Most of the time, when we have a problem for which we seek medical help, we automatically take adjustments in other parts of our lives. When our problem is remedied, we are more likely to assume it was due to the medication, rather than to the changes we’ve made, almost unconsciously.

All of us are susceptible to the various placebo effects, be they sugar pills or our own thoughts and actions. The more we pay attention to the effects our thoughts have on our well-being, the better able we become to direct our thoughts towards the health we want to experience.

About Karen Saint Marie

Hi! I'm Karen Saint Marie. I have worked in the fields of health care, nutrition and mental wellness since 1991. Over the past two decades, I became aware that almost everyone is interested in how to feel better, live better and think better. The problem is, most people find it impossible to prioritize their physical and mental health while juggling family, jobs, and community projects. I have helped many individuals and small groups learn to identify, understand and implement better health and wellness practices. Wellness is a many-fold process. To begin, pick a place to start and get the process going. Being healthy in mind and body doesn't mean spending hours every day focused on healthy living. Instead, it is easier to make healthy living a natural and enjoyable part of our lives. Taking care of our minds means putting the right things in our bodies. It means pushing our minds in fun and explorative ways. Learning about the latest neuroscience and psychological research is helpful. It shows us the easiest ways to keep our brains humming along, well into our later years. Taking care of our bodies means being aware of our movements. It means making good choices for healthy foods, even when we eat out for most of our meals. It doesn't have to be hard, and, it can be a lot of fun. Living a great life doesn't have to come at a high price. It just involves knowing what is needed, and then, doing some small part of that every day. You can contact me at

Posted on October 12, 2011, in Heart Disease, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I find myself making adjustments all the time when issues pop up. Invariably, after a few days they become better and I don’t have to see a doctor. I love the Hawthorne Effect!

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