If you’re someone who wonders why people act differently depending on who they’re with, this article is for you.

It’s common sense that someone is going to react differently depending on the person they keep company with. For example, you are not going to act the same around your group of girlfriends as you are when you’re with your mother.

There is a term for this, and it’s called reactivity.

What is Reactivity?

Reactivity is a term in psychology that describes someone’s behavior changing when they know they’re  being observed by someone. Someone who is being watched by their boss may be careful with their words, while someone at a party may be more relaxed.

Reactivity is much deeper than you would think, and there are various types of reactivity that can describe this phenomenon. Let’s look at them.

Experimenter Effect

If you’re in a study, you may end up changing your behavior if you know what the researchers are expecting out of you. Good research means keeping patients in the dark about what they want to see so the experiment can develop organically.

If you are aware of an experiment and what results they are trying to achieve, you may alter their behavior so they reach the results that are likely to put you in a favorable light. In some cases, altering your behavior may be on a subconscious level.


This is another experiment-related study. This involves people who change their behavior when they are aware of themselves being studied. Hawthorne Works Plant, where the name of this comes from, found that workers who were called out for their lack of productivity started working harder.

This does sound like common sense, but it does give some insight into the notion that some people need that extra push and may not have the self-discipline to be able to work by themselves.

John Henry

This is another effect related to research. If people know they are in the control group of an experiment, they may end up changing their behavior. The control group tends to be separate and independent, and being aware of this may end up sabotaging the integrity of the experiment.

There are other effects in reactivity as well, and these are just the main ones.

The lesson is that your behavior changes. However, you may wonder what this means for you personally.

What Does it Mean for Me?

Reactivity in psychology can tell us a lot about human nature.

Of course, the main takeaway from it is that our behaviors change depending on the person observing us. Meanwhile, if we are alone, or believe we are alone, we will behave differently altogether.

There are different motivations for wanting to change your behavior, and these include:

Keeping Your Life Going

We change how we behave if our manager or boss is watching us because we do not want to lose our jobs. If you don’t keep productivity going, then you may end up being fired.

The same applies to school. You may want to make sure you are listening to your teacher so you can get ahead in class. If you aren’t, then you end up failing.

However, when you’re not being supervised, you may relax more. You may pay less attention as a result.  

As we said, most of this is common sense. We all have to  change how we present ourselves according to our occupation. With reactivity psychology, however, you may start to realize just how much you change because of your behaviors.

Approval From Peers

Another reason why you may end up reacting differently is that you want approval from your friends.

You may have music you refrain from listening to because another friend doesn’t like the band. You may refrain from making comments that may upset a person that other people are find with. Your diet may change depending on who you are eating with.

We are all conformists to some degree, and the way we change our behavior can reflect that. This doesn’t mean you have no self-identity, but it just means you are adaptable to the situations around you.

Being Aware of Yourself

Another aspect of learning about reactivity is learning to be aware of one’s actions.

We tend to live our lives on autopilot, not looking critically at everything life throws at us. Because of this, many of us may avoid being aware of how we change depending on the person.

Practicing mindfulness, or the full awareness of the present, is one technique you can try whenever you want to improve your mental health.

By being aware of how you change your behaviors, you may learn how to be yourself, or learn how to be productive without needing an authority figure to tell you how to do so.

Seek Help

Reactivity is just one small way to explain human behavior. There may be many behaviors that you do not know why you do.

With that said, there are ways for you to find out more about yourself. One way is through online therapy.

You can speak to a therapist near you who can help with various issues you may have, and they can help you determine which reaction is appropriate for what situation. In addition, they may help you with other problems you may have.

Online therapy may be able to help you. If you do not want to visit a therapist in-person, you may benefit from talking to one online. You can speak to them via text, video, or voice chat, and this can make it a lot easier for you to get the help that you need.

Online therapy can be a cheaper, safer alternative, and we want what is best for you. If you’re interested, sign up and see what it can do for you. Chances are, you may end up learning a lot about yourself and the world around you.

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