Demand characteristics

In research—particularly psychologydemand characteristics refers to an experimental artifact where participants form an interpretation of the experiment's purpose and subconsciously change their behavior to fit that interpretation.[1] Pioneering research was conducted on demand characteristics by Martin Orne.[2] Typically, they are considered an extraneous variable, exerting an effect on behavior other than that intended by the experimenter.

A possible reason for demand characteristics is the participant's expectation that he or she will somehow be evaluated and thus figures out a way to 'beat' the experiment to attain good scores in the alleged evaluation. Demand characteristics cannot be eliminated from experiments, but demand characteristics can be studied to see their effect on the experiment. Examples of some common demand characteristics:

Weber and Cook have described some demand characteristics as involving the participant taking on a role in the experiment. These roles include:

Dealing with demand characteristics

Researchers use a number of different approaches for dealing with demand characteristics in research situations. Some of the more common approaches include the following:

See also


  1. Orne, Martin T. Demand Characteristics and the concept of Quasi-Controls. in Artifacts in Behavioral Research: Robert Rosenthal and Ralph L. Rosnow's Classic Books, beginning with page 110
  2. Dinges, David. In Memory of Dr. Orne
  3. Nichols, A. L., & Maner, J. K. (2008). The good subject effect: Investigating participant demand characteristics. Journal of General Psychology, 135, 151-165.
  4. Masling, J. (1966) Role-related behavior of the subject and psychologist and its effect upon psychological data. In D. Levine (Ed.), The Nebraska symposium on motivation. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press. Pp. 67-103.
  5. Barabasz, A. F., & Barabasz, M. (1992). Research designs and considerations. In E. Frornm & M. R. Nash (Eds.), Contemporary hypnosis research (pp. 173-200). New York: Guilford. The preceding paper attributes the concept to Weber, S. J., & Cook, T. D. (1972). Subject effects in laboratory research: An examination of subject roles, demand characteristics, and valid inference. Psychological Bulletin, 77(4), 273-295. The papers are described in, and citations copied from Herber, Thomas John. (May 2006). The Effects of Hypnotic Ego Strengthening on Self-esteem (masters degree thesis) (p. 43).
  6. Rubin, M., Paolini, S., & Crisp, R. J. (2010). A processing fluency explanation of bias against migrants. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 21-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.09.006
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Orne, Martin T. (1962). "On the social psychology of the psychological experiment: With particular reference to demand characteristics and their implications.". American Psychologist 17 (11): 776–783. doi:10.1037/h0043424
  8. Rubin, M., & Badea, C. (2010). The central tendency of a social group can affect ratings of its intragroup variability in the absence of social identity concerns. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 410-415. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.01.001
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